Ainslie Primary School kids were the first to try out a driverless shuttle bus in Canberra yesterday, as the city got an early look at its automated future.
The EZ10 shuttle, the result of a partnership between Transdev and Easymile, smoothly navigated its way around pedestrians, taking students from one end of the Petrie Plaza to the other.
In one instance, as a bike hurtled metres in front of the vehicle, the EZ10 jolted to a quick stop with all of the passengers comfortable on board.
Transdev communications general manager Kathy Lazanus said autonomous vehicles were "the future of transport", suggesting they had more perceptiveness than the average driver.
"The technology in the shuttle has sensors – inside, outside, underneath and surrounding the vehicle – with up to a 200 metre radius," she said.
"If anyone walks in front of it – if there's a bicycle, or pedestrians or a dog – whatever it might be, the vehicle stops for itself."
Ms Lazanus said there were no immediate plans for the shuttle to come to Canberra, but they were "hoping to be here in the near future".
"At the moment we're looking at areas that are separated from vehicular traffic, like campuses and pedestrian zones, but also first-mile, last-mile connections with other transport hubs."
Transport Canberra deputy chief Duncan Edghill said the performance of the shuttle bus gave people an opportunity to see what Canberra would look like in the future, noting that cities in the US and Europe have already incorporated driverless vehicles into their transport systems.
"Increasingly we're moving towards autonomous vehicles … I certainly wouldn't want to hazard a guess as to an exact time but I suspect sooner rather than later," he said.
"The technology is moving so quickly that if we were to sit here and talk again in a year's time, I think we'd been amazed at how far the technology had moved on."
Mr Edghill said the city would eventually look to having automated buses and said investment in new transport technology was "always at the forefront of our mind" at Transport Canberra.
"We're really eagerly looking at the market and seeing some of the developments which are happening – in autonomous vehicles, electro-mobility, on-demand transport – and we're really keen to be embracing them down in Canberra," he said.
"I want this to be the city that other people are looking at as an example."
The EZ10 shuttle bus will provide free rides to members of the public in Petrie Plaza on Friday and this weekend.
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