Driverless bus trial planned for Belconnen retirement village

A dDriverless bus will be used to shuttle residents around a Belconnen retirement village as part of a new trial.

The ACT government has approved an application from IRT Group and autonomous vehicle company Easymile to test the technology within the IRT Kangara Waters estate, near Belconnen town centre.

Route for driverless bus trial planned for Belconnen retirement village. Photo: ACT government

Route for driverless bus trial planned for Belconnen retirement village. Photo: ACT government

The bus will travel along Joy Cummings Place, picking up and dropping off residents near the village's community centre, library and cafe.

The trial will run for two weeks. It will be conducted exclusively within the grounds of the 150-home village.

Easymile will be using its EZ10 bus, the same model vehicle which was trialed in Canberra during a roadshow across Australian cities in 2017-18.

That battery-powered, box-shaped bus can hold up to 15 passengers and travel about 25 kilometres per hour. The bus used in the trial will have an eight-passenger limit.

A 10 kilometre per hour speed limit will apply for the test in Kangara Waters. An operator will sit in the vehicle at all times as a safety precaution.

The Canberra Times contacted Easymile and IRT Group for comment.

While the ACT government won't be involved in the trial, a spokesman for Transport Canberra and City Services directorate said its effort to help facilitate the operation was proof of its willingness to embrace new innovations.

"It is another example demonstrating [that the ACT] is a good test bed for trials of new technology," the spokesman said.

The government has already invested $1.35 million in driverless vehicle trials as part of its CANdrive program.

Fyshwick-based company Seeing Machines last year tapped into the funding to test its driver-monitoring technology in semi-autonomous vehicles at a racetrack in Sutton, near the ACT/NSW border.

The company uses face-tracking to measure driver reactions, which help to determine when motorists might need to re-take control of the vehicle.

Driverless vehicles have also been identified as a key part of Canberra's future in the ACT government's new transport strategy.

The draft strategy, which maps out the government's transport priorities for the next two decades, listed trialing driverless cars and buses on public roads as a short-term priority for the ACT.

The wider strategy flags the possibility of a default 40 kilometre per hour speed limit on residential streets, the introduction of road tolls and an expansion of Canberra's light rail network every five years.

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