Driverless cars to hit Australian roads as soon as November


The ARRB Group has announced its first on-road trial of driverless cars.


The possibility of driverless cars in Australia is now one step closer to becoming a reality with autonomous vehicles set to hit the streets of Adelaide in November as part of the country’s first-ever road trials.

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Led by the the national road safety research agency ARRB Group, the pilot will be a collaboration between Telstra, Bosch and Volvo, who will be supplying its next generation XC90. For its initial test, the self-driving SUVs will be traveling at speeds of up to 62 mph on closed sections of the highway. Upon observation, the researchers will be able to better understand what it is that will be required to make this technology safe for Australian roads.

ARRB group managing director Gerard Waldron said automated vehicles are far from science fiction, but rather a short-term reality that the country needs to be prepared for.

“The trials in South Australia this November will be the first of many trials nationally, with discussions underway in a number of jurisdictions. We’re seeking technology and automotive industry partners to assist us in Australia’s driverless vehicle innovation,” Waldron explains. “Driverless cars have a range of benefits that could significantly improve road safety and the quality of life of everyday Australians, add to the nation’s economic competitiveness and help relieve rapidly growing congestion that is crippling our infrastructure and creating productivity deficits in our capital cities.”

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The agency’s latest initiative puts Australia right behind the UK, U.S. and Sweden as global leaders in automated vehicle research. The trials in South Australia later this year will be the first of many nationally, with discussions already underway in a number of other jurisdictions.

“ARRB will establish how driverless technology needs to be manufactured and introduced for uniquely Australian driving behaviour, our climate and road conditions, including what this means for Australia’s national road infrastructure, markings, surfaces and roadside signage,” Waldron adds.

Volvo Australia managing director Kevin McCann believes that the technnology will deliver a wide range of benefits, even with a human behind the wheel, including improved traffic safety and fuel economy, reduced congestion, as well as the opportunity for better infrastructure planning.

Hosted by the South Australian Government, the pilot is expected to coincide with a Driverless Vehicle Conference on November 5-6th. Other partners supporting ARRB’s efforts include the RAA, Adelaide Airport Limited, Flinders University, Cohda Wireless and Carnegie Mellon University.

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Volvo isn’t the only car manufacturers vying for the market, though, as Audi has its sights set on a a driverless A8 available by 2017, Nissan with plans of their own by 2019 and Ford by 2020. Aside from that, the University of Michigan recently opened what they’re calling “Mcity,” the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of automated vehicle technologies that will lead the way to mass-market driverless cars.

So when it comes to Internet-enabled automobiles, it’s not so much an “if” it will happen as it is “when.” And with reports calling for one in five to be connected by 2020, not to mention new revelations around security, design will surely play an integral role in the process of bringing these cars mainstream.

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