Semi-autonomous trials to begin in Melbourne

The Victorian State Government has committed to an 18-month trial of semi-autonomous vehicles on the EastLink Freeway in Melbourne.

The trial, carried out in conjunction with the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), La Trobe University and ConnectEast, will focus on passenger cars with driver-assistance technology such as lane keep assist, auto braking and adaptive cruise control.

“This first of its kind research project … will be conducted in traffic on EastLink to assess whether the latest technology is compatible with current infrastructure such as road signs and line markings,” said Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan.

“We’re working with Australia’s top road researchers and road operators to ensure we’re at the forefront of this technology to reduce congestion and increase road safety.”

According to ARRB, stage one of the project will see the development of a classification system for assessing Australian roads based on the level of automated vehicle features they support – essentially a grading system so car manufacturers can enable hands-free driving, on roads that meet the criteria.

In the second half of 2017, stage two will test a range of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) technologies that allow communication between vehicles and road infrastructure.

Finally, stage three will see a small number of semi-automated vehicles tested on EastLink with hands-off-the-wheel technology in 2018.

Following the research, ConnectEast will work with car manufacturers and VicRoads to ensure that vehicle technology and road infrastructure allow for the safe introduction of hands free driving in everyday applications – an option that is currency also widely debated in the heavy vehicle field.

In October, US start-up Otto ran a real-life trial in Colorado that cumulated in the world’s first shipment using a self-driving truck.

The ConnectEast trial has received $578,000 funding from the VicRoads Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Grants Program.

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