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Solar, driverless airport shuttle among SA grant winners

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A trial that could see the shuttle service between Adelaide Airport’s terminal and long-term carpark go completely driverless has been announced as one of seven projects to share in the SA government’s $10 million Future Mobility Lab Fund to drive local development of autonomous vehicle technology.

Announced in November last year, South Australia’s $10 million Future Mobility Lab Fund was established by the Weatherill government to boost local testing, research and development of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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In all, it attracted 42 applications for grants worth more than $26 million, of which seven projects have been tapped to share in $5.6 million from the first round of funding.

South Australia’s minister for transport, Stephen Mullighan, said today that Adelaide Airport (above) – as one of the successful applicants – would receive $1 million towards a $2.8 million trial of three electric driverless shuttles operating between the long-term carpark and the terminal.

The project will also include new bus shelters with solar PV, LED lighting, CCTV and wi-fi, while the electric buses will use a dedicated charging station partially fed by the Airport’s existing onsite 1.17MW solar PV generation.

Adelaide Airport Managing Director Mark Young said the company was keen to be an early adopter in the autonomous vehicle space, and to replace its current fleet of diesel powered shuttle buses with the solar powered driverless buses, if the trial proved a success.

“Their compact size and agility will enable them to operate on a dedicated path at an increased frequency, potentially operating 24 hours a day, reducing road congestion and significantly lowering carbon emissions,” he said.

Other recipients of the fund included leading international driverless car supplier RDM Group, which would also receive $1 million towards a $1.8 million driverless cargo pod trial.

The cargo pod would be used to transport goods at Adelaide’s Tonsley precinct, with the aim of developing a market-ready autonomous delivery pod within a year.

Another $1 million will go to Flinders University, the minister said, to help fund a collaboration with the RAA on a three-year $4 million driverless shuttle project.

Initially the vehicle would shuttle students around the Tonsley campus, with future plans to extend to the Bedford Park campus and local public transport hubs.

“As a Government we have been focused on fostering the development of an autonomous technology industry in South Australia to claim a share of an industry predicted to be worth $90 billion globally by 2030,” Mullighan said in comments on Tuesday.

“Our Australian-first driverless car trials, our Australian-first law changes to allow for on-road trials and our international Driverless Car Conference sent a message that we are the place to do business when it comes to autonomous vehicle technology.

“Soon driverless vehicle technology will be taking to the roads in the Tonsley Innovation Precinct with RDM’s exciting cargo pod trial and Flinders University’s ambitious driverless shuttles.”

Flinders University vice chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling, said the trial would include the development of a mobile app to allow people arriving by bus or train to arrange for a shuttle to pick them up and deliver them to their final destination on campus.

“As the trial advances, we’ll open it up to members of the public to be able to experience driverless transport,” he said.  

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