The New South Wales government in Australia has confirmed trials of fully driverless car technology will be carried out in Armidale and Coffs Harbour, starting later this year

EasyMile driverless shuttle bus

An EasyMile self-driving shuttle bus, which will be used in the New South Wales driverless car tech trial (Facebook/EasyMile)

Driverless car technology has taken a big step forward in Australia after trials were announced in two regions.

Fully autonomous vehicles will be deployed on roads in Armidale and Coffs Harbour, both in the south-eastern state of New South Wales, by the end of the year.

Tests will be carried out at various locations including the University of New England (UNE) in three phases over a 12-month period, having previously been held at Sydney Olympic Park.

The EZ10 shuttle buses, built by French company EasyMile, will be able to carry up to 12 passengers at a time – with vehicle supervisors on board at all times.

Melinda Pavey, minister for roads, maritime and freight in the NSW government, said: We want to test this technology outside the Greater Sydney area so our regional communities can be part of our planning for connected and automated vehicles.”


Driverless car tech to be tested on students and elderly people

The trial will focus on varying community demographics and deliver real-time data to help the wider development of driverless car technology across Australia, reports the Armidale Express.

Phase one in Armidale will involve students and staff at UNE, the second phase will introduce a loop service targeted at elderly residents and the final part of the test will expand to the wider downtown area, including the New England Regional Art Museum.

Driverless car, self-driving cars, EasyMile
EasyMile self-driving shuttle buses, which will be used in the New South Wales driverless car tech trial (Facebook/EasyMile)

In Coffs Harbour, the shuttle will connect Coffs Harbour International Marina and Muttonbird Island in the first phase, before serving Marion Grove Retirement Village in phase two and transport links in Harbour Drive for the third stage.

As well as EasyMile, transport companies Busways and Via will also be involved in the experiment.

Minister for transport and infrastructure Andrew Constance added: “We’ll be implementing what we’ve already learned from Olympic Park but this trial will be tailored to Coffs Harbour, helping deliver improved transport solutions for regional NSW as we prepare our communities for the future.”


Race to introduce driverless car tech heats up

Driverless car development is at various stages across the world.

In Australia, cars with self-driving features have been on the road for some time but the NSW roll-out is believed to be the first time fully autonomous cars have been trialled.

Google spin-out company Waymo has driven eight million miles on public roads since tests began in 2009 – half of that distance covered since November 2017.

It has 600 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans on the road in 25 cities in the US.

In Britain, Chancellor Philip Hammond has stated he wants to see fully autonomous cars in use by 2021.

Driverless car, self-driving cars, EasyMile
An EasyMile self-driving shuttle bus, which will be used in the New South Wales driverless car tech trial (Facebook/EasyMile)

Tests have been carried out by companies including Jaguar Land Rover and Oxbotica but the government will relax legislation that says tests can take place without a human for the first time.

Singapore is angling to get into pole position, having built a mini town that acts as a testbed for driverless cars.

But safety concerns have been raised about the technology after an Uber self-driving car hit and killed a woman in Arizona in March.

It was the first fatality involving a driverless vehicle and led to Uber halting its trials, although tests are expected to resume in Pittsburgh and San Francisco potentially by next month.