Newcastle Wheels out First Driverless Vehicle

The future of automated transport arrived in Newcastle today with the unveiling of the City’s brand-new driverless shuttle bus.

Wrapped in City of Newcastle’s branding, the 11-seater vehicle was revealed for the first time by Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes before it begins servicing the city’s harbour foreshore as part of a 12-month trial.

“This is a major milestone for our smart city journey, and I look forward to working with Transport for NSW and partners Keolis Downer on this unique opportunity to make automated transport in Newcastle a reality,” Councillor Nelmes said at Keolis Downer's Hamilton depot today.

“The City’s vision for a smart, integrated transport network begins in earnest with the arrival of this new driverless vehicle, which we propose connecting with Newcastle’s integrated public transport network.

“We are planning for passengers to be able to take in views of the city’s harbour along the proposed 2 km loop service, making it very appealing to tourists. A larger circuit will include some of Newcastle’s other beachside destinations after a couple of months.”

Keolis Downer New Mobilities Manager Sue Wiblin confirmed the trial would meet all relevant safety standards.

“Over the next month, we will complete a rigorous safety-testing program, on road and off road, to prepare the vehicle for customer services,” Ms Wiblin said.

“In-built computers and sensing systems capable of detecting obstacles, anticipating movement and evaluating risk of collision are what sets this vehicle apart from the risks associated with human-controlled cars.”

While the vehicle is fully automated, a chaperone will be able to stop it via an override system if required.

Today’s unveiling follows confirmation of Newcastle’s standing as a leading smart city after it won a brace of awards at the IDC Smart Cities Asia-Pacific Awards this week.

The smart city infrastructure component of the Hunter Innovation Project (HIP)* was announced outright winner of the ‘Land Use and Planning’ category among an illustrious field of cities, including Singapore.

The HIP has introduced Australia’s largest installation of smart poles, smart lighting, free public WiFi, an environmental sensor network and an Internet of Things (IoT) lab to Newcastle’s streets

The City’s Smart Moves Newcastle - Mobility Projects, under which the driverless vehicle was delivered, also shared top honours in the ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Public Transit and Rideshare’ category with Chinese tech powerhouse Shenzhen.

“Of the seven Australian projects nominated as finalists in the 2019 round of the IDC Smart City awards, Newcastle was the only city to come away with wins,” the Lord Mayor said.

“It speaks volumes for our growing stature that we are mixing it with, and beating, established Asia-Pacific smart cities like Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Busan, Auckland, Taipei and Singapore."

*HIP is a $17 million collaboration between the City of Newcastle, the NSW Government, University of Newcastle, Newcastle Now and Hunter DiGiT.


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