A report on a trial of the self-driving ‘Autonobus’ has been released, finding that the pilot project demonstrated that safety, technical, operational and community requirements could all be met for successful deployment from now.

The report on the 12-month project at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus also includes feedback from more than 500 passengers who experienced the world-class technology first-hand.

The report includes a number of recommendations; including considering autonomous vehicles in future infrastructure planning and investment decisions, further trials of the technology and continued education and engagement to prepare communities for the arrival of autonomous vehicles.

Partly funded by the Victorian Government Smarter Journeys Program, the project brings together the private sector, academia and Victoria’s largest member organisation. It is a collaboration between VicRoads, Keolis Downer, La Trobe University, HMI Technologies, RACV and ARRB.

The aim of the passenger trial was to gain a better understanding of the technology and how to integrate it into the existing public transport systems to connect passengers to a transport hub – a concept known as last mile connectivity.

Director of La Trobe’s Centre for Technology Infusion, Professor Ani Desai, said the 517 passengers who rode on Autonobus during the trial provided essential feedback in pre and post-ride surveys.

“It’s clear from the results of the trial that autonomous buses are already close to reality in transport users’ minds,” Professor Desai said.

“Before jumping on board Autonobus, almost 20 per cent of passenger surveyed said they could not see themselves riding on driverless buses in the future.

“After experiencing the technology first-hand, just ten per cent of passengers still felt this way.

“Critically, the study also indicated that potential customers would be willing to pay a fair price  for such a service.”

CEO of Keolis Downer, David Franks, said that what the company has learnt will assist in making the roll out of autonomous vehicles a reality in the immediate future.

“The pilot project provided strong evidence autonomous buses present a significant opportunity in the short term to meet existing mobility needs and encourage more people on to public transport in Victoria and across Australia,” Mr Franks said.

“The trial demonstrated autonomous buses can and should play an important role in the mobility mix as a complementary service to existing public transport.

“We now have the data to show they can operate safely within complex environments and that there is strong public support for them.

“All levels of governments and the private sector must work together to ensure we have the right infrastructure and regulatory systems in place to facilitate the deployment of autonomous vehicles and ensure they are integrated into the planning process for transport and urban developments.”

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