Newcastle City Council will launch a driverless bus trial in the first half of next year along the city’s harbour and beaches.
The council announced on Friday it was seeking proposals from qualified operators to trial an autonomous public transport vehicle which could operate safely in traffic.
The trial will involve a small shuttle carrying about 12 people past some of the city’s best coastal scenery.
The council said the trial, which will last at least a year, would go through a safety testing phase before people could ride the shuttle, which will be free.
Tender documents will outline a range of outcomes for the trial, including providing an autonomous vehicle for public use; demonstrating they are suitable for urban environments; testing Newcastle’s infrastructure to support AVs; and helping develop local, state and laws for driver-less vehicles.
Transport for NSW is trialling driverless bus shuttles in Coffs Harbour, Armidale and Sydney’s Olympic Park.
“Our vision is to be a smart, liveable and sustainable global city by 2030,” lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“This project provides yet another great opportunity to showcase Newcastle’s Smart City initiatives to a national and international audience.
“Automated shuttles and driverless car technologies are at the cutting edge of transport. This trial will help build our understanding of how the vehicles can fit into existing traffic-dominated cities and connect with existing transport networks.
“City of Newcastle is partnering with a consortium of technology businesses to provide an integrated network for transport, energy and digital infrastructure to transform the city into a living lab.”
The trial is part of the council’s Smart City strategy, which received $5 million funding through the federal government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program last year.
The council announced last year the funds would allow Keolis Downer to run a driverless bus trial at the University of Newcastle, but those plans were shelved.
Legislation around autonomous vehicles in NSW requires a trained human operator to be on board the vehicle.
The operator, to be known as a chaperone, will carry a remote device similar to a video game controller to take charge of the vehicle in the event of an emergency.