Remember the driverless “Johnny Cab” from the dystopian Arnie Schwarzenegger sci-fi flick Total Recall? Well, life definitely imitated art in Newcastle this week with the arrival of the first-ever driverless vehicle (albeit without the creepy android fella) in the city.
The driverless shuttle, which will be ferrying Novocastrians and visitors between Watt Street and Nobbys Beach roundabouts on weekdays between 10am and 2pm as part of a three-month trial.
“I’m delighted to see the trial underway and people riding the city’s first driverless vehicle,” Deputy Mayor Declan Clausen said.
“This is another milestone in Newcastle’s smart city journey as we trial the future of automated transport as part of the city’s ‘living lab’ experiment. With the help of Federal Government funding, the project will assess driverless vehicles in mixed traffic conditions and the role they can play in multimodal transport systems.”
Running at a speed of just 20km/hr, the vehicle uses an array of sophisticated technology, including 360-degree cameras and input sensors, to avoid cars and objects.
The operation is overseen by an onboard human chaperone, who greets passengers and answers questions. The chaperone has also undergone training to control the vehicle via a control pad should any issues arise.
Shuttle operator Keolis Downer has encouraged Novocastrians to take part in the trial by boarding on Wharf Road just east of the Watt Street roundabout or at Nobbys Beach.
“We encourage Novocastrians to come to Wharf Road and take a ride to experience the future of transportation using this technology,” Keolis Downer Hunter General Manager Mark Dunlop said.
“It’s only a short walk from the light rail on Scott Street and frequent bus services to Customs House.
“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.”
Mr Dunlop added that the trial would also ask for community feedback following on from a survey conducted in 2019.
“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.”
Head here for more info and to take part in a survey.