Autonomous Electric Shuttle Service Kicks Off In Adelaide

Solar electric autonomous shuttle

Image: Flinders University

It won’t be breaking any speed or distance records, but a driverless and soon to be solar powered electric shuttle has been turning heads in Adelaide – and the public are invited to take a free ride.

The autonomous electric shuttle, called Flex, commenced operations around the Tonsley Innovation District earlier this week as part of a five-year trial of autonomous vehicle technology. It will initially provide shuttle services between Clovelly Park Train Station and Tonsley’s Main Assembly Building, then connections to bus stops on South Road and businesses within the Tonsley precinct.

It’s expected the shuttle will also service the Flinders Medical Centre and the University’s Bedford Park campus within twelve months, before travelling on main arterial roads around the entire Bedford Park precinct.

Flex is an ARMA shuttle1, designed by France’s Navya. In September last year, then-South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announced Navya would be establishing its Asia-Pacific manufacturing facility in Adelaide.

The ARMA has LiFePO4 battery pack with a capacity of 33kWh.  Its localisation and obstacle detection equipment includes two 360° multi-layer and six 180° mono-layer lidars (Light Detection and Ranging).

Flex can carry up to 15 passengers at speeds of up to 40 km per hour, but it will be limited to up to 30 km per hour during the trial. While it will be essentially driverless, there will be an on-board ” chaperone” who will be educating passengers about the EV’s technology and to ensure safety.

“Our aim is not to prove the technology but rather expose the public to this new type of transport service and learn from their responses and reactions to help driverless vehicles gain general acceptance,” said Flinders University Head of Civil Engineering Professor Rocco Zito.

Flex will dock inside a six- bay solar powered recharge garage near the Mitsubishi Administration building, which will be constructed within the next couple of months. The recharging station will also be available free of charge to owners of electric vehicles wanting to top up their EVs..

Members of the public have been encouraged to use the Flex shuttle service, with free rides available from Mondays to Fridays between 10am and 2pm during the first stage of the trials. Bookings can be made on Flinders University’s website.

The service was officially launched by Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Stephan Knoll on Tuesday, who was one of the first passengers.

“South Australia is ahead of the curve in this space and was the first state to enact legislation to allow on-road trials of autonomous vehicles,” said Mr. Knoll. “South Australia is well placed to capitalise on the significant economic and job opportunities that exist in this sector as this technology continues to advance.”

Technavio Research analysts earlier this year predicted the global autonomous vehicle market will grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of close to 42% by 2022 (in terms of units).

Footnotes

  1. It appears the ARMA shuttle is now known as the Autonom Shuttle
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Ronald Brakels says

    I, for one, welcome our new autonomous overlords.

  2. I for one, do not.
    Gupta.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I fully respect your opinion and defend your right to hold it.

      Pssst! Dr Autonomous! We have a volunteer for the underground sugar mines!

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