UK-based autonomous transport developer RDM Group will establish its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Adelaide. RDM is developing low-speed autonomous transport “pods” that can ferry individuals or small groups on via footpaths, within pedestrian precincts, streets or on private land without drivers.
The Low-Speed Autonomous Transport (L-SATS) sector is not about moving large numbers of people around in a hurry. However, it can get people out of the elements and to their destination within a city precinct, town, campus or resort with zero emissions and without the need for drivers.
L-SATS developer RDM Group will now run its Asia-Pacific operations out of Adelaide, with the potential for production of its driverless “Pod Zero” vehicles to be established in the future.
RDM Group CEO David Keene, ambitiously, said that there was “massive demand” for creating autonomous mobility solutions in Australia.
“With this in mind, we feel the opportunity deserves a local presence, and we are delighted to have taken a technical office at Flinders University, within the world-class Tonsley Innovation District. This will give us the base to develop an Australian supply chain and to explore new opportunities, with the longer-term plan to create a bespoke assembly facility in Adelaide that will supply vehicles direct to customers across the Asia-Pacific region.”
Keene said a South Australian production facility could produce hundreds of “pods” every year.
Self-driving vehicles are undoubtedly becoming more common on Australian roads, with the Tesla Model S an increasingly common sight. While these cars still require a driver to be behind the wheel, progress with sensing, processing and control technology is allowing drivers to increasingly take their hands off the wheel.
Fully autonomous vehicles are still very much in the nascent phase. Trials are, however, being carried out in Australia, including an autonomous bus program in Perth, run by the RAC. The RAC bus can carry eleven passengers at an average speed of 25kph along a preprogrammed route along the South Perth foreshore.
“The RDM vehicles represent the smaller more flexible type of autonomous vehicle that may have applications in areas such as retirement villages and assisted care,” said the RAA’s senior manager of mobility and automotive policy Mark Borlace. “The RAA supports the roll out of these technologies and the setting up of companies like RDM in South Australia will help the state to maintain a leadership role in this technology development.”
RDM lists the use cases for its “Pod Zero” vehicles as including: airports, eco towns and villages, golf courses, heritage sites, holiday parks, shopping centres, smart cities and university campuses.