This article was originally published on The Advertiser.
DRIVERLESS vehicles are no longer just the talk of the town; they are here.
A 10-passenger driverless shuttle will be trialled on the beachfront at Glenelg before next summer, taking people 1km and back to Adelaide-designed and built automated stops at Moseley Square and the Broadway Kiosk.
South Australian company SAGE Automation will join forces with US vehicle manufacturer
Local Motors to run the $1.6 million trial, which is partly funded by a $700,000 grant from the State Government.
The Local Motors bus “Olli” was launched in 2016 and operates at a number of university campuses in the US and Europe, with a trial also planned at Newcastle University this year.
Most Ollis operate on private land, and in Adelaide another shuttle will start trials this year at Adelaide Airport.
But Glenelg’s Olli will take passengers from the tram stop at Moseley Square along the shared path to the Broadway Kiosk and back.
So-called “Olli Stops” at either end of the line, developed in Adelaide, will be linked using IBM Watson interface technology with interactive displays, and allow for wheelchair-bound passengers.
Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said the six-month Olli trial was expected to begin in September. It will be free for passengers.
“South Australia has led the nation in driving the push towards developing autonomous vehicles, hosting the first trials of driverless cars in the southern hemisphere in 2015,’’ he said.
“In early 2016, SA became the first Australian state to permit driverless vehicle testing on Australian roads.’’
Local Motors executive vice president Matthew Rivett acknowledged SA as a leader in the region.
“With South Australia’s friendly regulations and aggressive commitment to innovation, we believe that South Australia marks the first of many deployments in the region.’’
The key to the benefits of the local trial will be the partnership’s Tonsley-made Olli Stops, where much of the technology connecting passengers with the vehicles is housed.
SAGE Automation chief executive Adrian Fahey said the trial site had been selected because it was minutes from the company’s head office and manufacturing facility at Tonsley, where the Olli Stop will be engineered and manufactured.
The Olli carries up to 10 passengers and has been operating at university campuses in Berlin and Copenhagen. In Las Vegas, when another shuttle model was publicly launched, a truck backed into it only two hours after it began service.
Mr. Mullighan said Australian research had found that global leadership in the field of driverless and autonomous vehicles could unlock $95 billion a year in economic value and generate 16,000 jobs nationally.