A self-driving shuttle bus service has taken to the roads on a route around a university district in South Australia as a part of a five-year trial.
South Australia is the one of the first to let driverless vehicles run trials alongside regular motorists. Senior Manager of Mobility & Automotive Policy at the Royal Automobile Association (RAA) Mark Borlase stated that it is time for laws to catch up with the technology.
“These are operating under trial conditions so they have exemptions from the law in order to operate,” explained Borlase.
Borlase is hoping that Australia’s federal government collaborates with state governments to ensure a “consistent law that will allow these to actually work in their own right.”
As the self-driving bus is being trialed on the Flinders University roads in Adelaide, South Australia, the RAA is saying that these autonomous Flinders Express, or FLEX in short, could soon be used in retirement villages, airports, and as a backup public transport.
Currently, each FLEX vehicle has a chaperone onboard to ensure passenger safety and to answer any questions.
Flinders University of South Australia professor Rocco Zito explained how the FLEX service could serve the community.
Zito said that people would have an alternative, “something else that will take them straight to their door.” He stated that the FLEX service is “going to be really handy especially for people who have difficulty with transport.” This includes those with disabilities, the elderly, or the young.
Borlase mentioned the safety of FLEX shuttle buses, stating that these types of vehicles are easily managed because they run at very low speeds, like 15 miles per hour.
As technology advances, Borlase said infrastructure investment would become a priority. The Australian federal government proposed to establish an Automotive Technology Office, an initiative supported by the state government.
Findings from a recent RAA survey indicated that the majority of respondents think the self-driving shuttle service could improve the independence of the young, aging, and those with mobility difficulties.
About 50 percent of respondents reported that they would feel safe sharing the road with a driverless vehicle and as a passenger. More than 50 percent stated that they would use a driverless vehicle if they were unable to drive manually or are tired.