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Driverless shuttle bus in Newcastle trial

Newcastle sees driverless bus trial

Is the future of public transportation driverless? It might be, and a city that isn’t Sydney is trialling the tech now in something other than a train.

We’re beginning to see drivers replaced with computers in cars, and there’s even the tech in trains, but what about other transport?

Regular person-carrying aircraft isn’t quite at that level yet, and we’re not sure many would trust it, but there’s a good chance a bus is something you might board if there was no driver at the helm.

Able to run without breaks and be used for specific routes, it’s a technology that could be used in the day to day, and to find out, Newcastle is giving it a test.

The other large city in New South Wales — you know, the one that isn’t Sydney — is trying out a driverless bus, working with Transport for NSW to test a driverless vehicle to take people around Newcastle’s harbour foreshore in a 12 month trial.

The vehicle will go through safety testing over the next month, with the planned supported track for the bus set around two kilometres of the Newcastle harbour, with a larger circuit arriving later on.

“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,” Nuatali Nelmes, Lord Mayor of Newcastle.

“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,” she said.

While the system is automated and uses computers and sensors to steer around obstacles, a chaperone can override the controls if needed, meaning the bus can be taken over if needed.

Carrying only 11 people at a time, it’s not going to replace larger buses in the area, and acts as a bit of a test for Newcastle, but it could pave the way for other driverless technologies to roll out later on.

The unveiling of the new Driverless Shuttle Bus at the Newcastle Bus Terminal with Mayor Nuatali Nelmes. Credit: Peter Lorimer.
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