Home Exclusive: Sydney trial a ‘stepping stone to driverless vehicles’

Exclusive: Sydney trial a ‘stepping stone to driverless vehicles’

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The NSW Government will use a high-tech luxury car with self-driving capabilities to understand how autonomous vehicles will work on Australian roads.

Transport for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety has purchased a Volvo XC90 with a “pilot assist” suite of self-steering, accelerating and braking features that make it one of the most advanced cars on the road.

Experts will use the car to understand the abilities and limitations of modern luxury cars as well as how they interact with the environment.

Bernard Carlon, executive director of the Centre for Road Safety, said the SUV will replace an advanced Subaru Outback wagon acquired in 2014.

“We want to understand how the latest safety technologies, like lane keeping assist, speed sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency breaking work on our road network,” he said.

“These automated technologies help improve safety and are a stepping stone to driverless vehicles in the future.”

The hybrid-powered XC90 is capable of recognising speed signs, maintaining a safe gap to the car in front and keeping the car within its lane for brief periods – drivers can only take their hands off the wheel for around 10 seconds at a time.

Carlon said existing road rules require a driver to be in control of a vehicle at all times, even when it has the newest automated technology. Next-generation autonomous cars will allow drivers to hand off control to vehicles for minutes at a time, something the University of NSW is examining with a simulator-based trial that could reach Sydney roads in 2018.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) is examining the capabilities of new and upcoming vehicles that allow drivers to relinquish control.

A DIRD spokesman told Fairfax Media that the department is considering changes to the driver licensing system that may “include demonstrating skills necessary to work with an automated driving system” in the “near future”.

Carlon said the NSW Government is examining “what we need to do to enable trials of more highly automated vehicles in NSW”, and that the Volvo will play an important part in that process. 

“In the future, we’ll need to consider what changes we should make to our rules to allow for vehicles that can drive themselves,” he said.

“We are considering what those changes could be and are working nationally to make sure that any future changes to the rules are consistent across Australia.”

 

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