Curtin University’s autonomous bus trials to accelerate research in Western Australia


Curtin University in Perth is the first educational establishment in Australia to trial a commercial driverless bus, and will use the vehicle as an opportunity to carry out further research in satellite navigation systems, road safety and mobility issues for people with disabilities.

The autonomous and 100% electric bus, built by French company Navya, seats 11 passengers and can travel up to 28mph (45km/h) on a pre-determined route, using computer programming and remote sensors, stereo cameras, and GPS systems. The vehicle is programmed to follow a route with exact rules as to when it can start, stop and negotiate temporary obstacles.

The autonomous bus has been in operation at Curtin’s Bentley Campus from late March, and will further strengthen the university’s commitment to embracing and developing new technologies and innovation. Researchers will examine the attitudes of the Curtin and wider community toward autonomous technologies, and people will have the opportunity to participate in this research through surveys, feedback and user-experience. Partners in the project include Innovation Central, a collaboration between Curtin University, Cisco, and Woodside Energy. Cisco will provide additional technologies for the trial. Optus will also be supporting the trial through provision of dedicated communication technologies.

“The autonomous bus trial will provide us with a significant range of research opportunities and benefits, while collaborating with major industry partners to enable further technology development,” explained the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry.

“A wide range of Curtin research groups are looking to the future implementation of robotic and autonomous vehicles in areas such as health, traffic, communications, infrastructure, and navigation technologies, including the public confidence in these quickly emerging technologies. Potential impacts of driverless technology include safer and more sustainable transport, more mobility options for people who are unable to drive, and a reduction in traffic congestion and noise pollution.”

The state capital of Western Australia (WA) is rapidly becoming one of the country’s leading centers for autonomous vehicle research. Since its launch on public roads in South Perth, more than 2,000 people have now taken part in Australia’s first driverless bus trial. The RAC Intellibus, supported by the Western Australia (WA) government and the City of South Perth, is another Navya vehicle, which has been transporting passengers along South Perth Esplanade, covering a total distance of over 650 miles (1,050km) during 357 trips, since launch.

The RAC’s general manager for public policy, Anne Still, said, “The trial is one of the most progressive in the world and had generated a lot of public interest. More than 6,000 people have so far registered to be part of the trial, which is an incredibly positive indication of the amount of interest there is in this technology and the possibilities it could bring for the state. WA is truly leading the way when it comes to testing autonomous vehicle technology. While this is the first trial of driverless technology in Australia, in terms of complexity it is also one of the most progressive shuttle trials in the world.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).