Eastlink has conducted the first demonstration of hands-free driving while the tunnels were closed for scheduled maintenance.

While hands-free driving is currently not allowed on Victorian roads, the demonstration was able to include hands-free driving using lane keep assist as it was conducted through the EastLink tunnels when closed to traffic in preparation for scheduled tunnel maintenance activities, and under controlled conditions.

The demonstration was planned to help Victorian motorists gain a better understanding of lane keep assist and other driver assistance functions.

EastLink corporate affairs and marketing manager, Doug Spencer-Roy said the demonstration resulted from the Annual Victorian Self-Driving Vehicle Survey conducted recently by EastLink, in which more than half of the 15,000 respondents rated their awareness of self-driving cars as ‘very little’ or ‘none’.

“EastLink wants to help motorists gain a better understanding of the latest driver assistance functions, and how they will evolve to make self-driving cars possible in the future,” Mr Spencer-Roy said.

“With driver assistance functions such as lane keep assist expected to improve road safety significantly, we hope that the demonstration encourages motorists to consider the availability of these new vehicle capabilities when choosing their next car.”

In EastLink’s Annual Victorian Self-Driving Vehicle Survey, only four per cent of survey respondents said their car has a lane keep assist function. However, lane keep assist and other driver assistance functions are increasingly available in the latest cars, and at much lower prices than previously.

EastLink selected the Honda Civic VTi-LX for the demonstration following its participation in the trials of the latest automated vehicle technologies that have been undertaken in 2017 by EastLink in partnership with VicRoads, the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), La Trobe University and RACV.

 Doug Spencer-Roy described the demonstration, “The Honda Civic steered itself using lane keep assist mode along EastLink and through the EastLink tunnels at speeds up to 80km/h, while the driver was not holding the steering wheel.

“The Honda Civic lane keep assist function was not affected by changing light conditions during the demonstration, such as the transitions into and out of each tunnel portal.

“The demonstration showed that driver assistance functions in cars are rapidly increasing in quality and availability, which is paving the way for motorists to experience hands-free driving on freeways in the coming years (subject to legislative changes).”

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