THE union representing bus drivers says an autonomous vehicle trial in Newcastle is "fiscally ludicrous, unsafe and out of touch with the community".
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union slammed the trial, which began in earnest on Monday, and argued the expense failed to create jobs or "contribute to Newcastle's high-capacity transport mix".
City of Newcastle enlisted Keolis Downer to run the trial, which is funded through a $5 million federal grant.
President of the union's NSW tram and bus division Daniel Jaggers said the "snail-paced" trial was proof that the "tiny, shiny, expensive toys" were not a viable part of Newcastle's public transport or response to the pandemic.
"This is quite simply an idiot project to pursue with a looming recession," he said. "We need substantial investment that will both create jobs and contribute to Newcastle's public services and economy."
Keolis Downer's Mark Dunlop said at Monday's launch that the public's opinion would help decide the ultimate fate of the autonomous vehicles beyond the trial stage.
"We are very interested in the public perception around this technology and will be asking for further feedback after receiving a large number of responses to a survey last November when the shuttle was on show during the Newcastle 500," he said.
"Passengers can be assured of the safety of the vehicle and the training of our onboard chaperones who have additional qualifications to their skills as bus drivers."