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Driverless vehicle cruises into Armidale for Australia-first trial

Students at the University of New England in Armidale will become the first in NSW to get to class in a driverless vehicle, along the longest route for this kind of transport in Australia so far.

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall announced today that the Armidale driverless trial would welcome passengers and transport up to 12 passengers at a time in a fully-automated vehicle on a five-kilometre route. The service will begin on Thursday this week and operate nine hours a day, five days a week.

“A driverless shuttle operating in a mixed, open road environment is a first for NSW and I am pleased to say this puts Armidale right at the forefront of tomorrow’s vehicle technology,” Mr Marshall said.

“It will also allow students to leave their cars behind and help address a regular traffic bottleneck on campus.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Armidale and confirms its status as the innovation and technology capital of country NSW.”

Key points:

  • The five kilometre route on campus is the longest shuttle deployment in Australia;
  • Longest hours of operation for an Australian trial; and
  • This is the first of three phases for the trial, the next phase will see the shuttle operate in the Armidale CBD, with the third phase extending the CBD route to the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM).

The Armidale Regional Driverless Initiative, known as ARDi, is a level four fully-automated EasyMile EZ10 shuttle.  After initial mapping and weeks of testing, it will operate inside the UNE campus providing a regular service between the residential colleges and the main university campus.

Mr Marshall said the route was considered one of the most complex deployments of an automated vehicle in Australia due to the combination of intersections, mixed traffic, changing gradients and operating environments for GPS and vehicle localisation.

The trial has undergone extensive safety testing and will have an operator on board at all times to take over if needed.

The ARDi Trial brings together the NSW Government’s Smart Innovation Centre with Armidale Regional Council, EasyMile, University of New England, Transdev, WSP, QBE Insurance and Edwards Coaches.

Services will begin on Thursday 21 February and operate from 10am to 10pm Monday to Friday with a break for charging in the afternoon peak from 2-5pm.

“The service is free and open to everyone,” Mr Marshall said

“This is exciting technology and we want the community to come and experience it first-hand. We also hope it inspires UNE students to push the boundaries of technology,” Mr Marshall said

ARDi will operate at UNE for four months before moving to the Armidale CBD. Mr Marshall said community feedback would help design the route for phase 2 through the CBD and linking to NERAM.  

Further information and service updates will be available at www.ardi-bus.com.au/  

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