Monday, 23 July 2018

A futuristic first for regional Australia and Armidale

ARMIDALE has developed a reputation for being at the cutting edge of technological change and now the city is set to be ahead of the game again with an Australian-first fully automated vehicle trial coming before the end of the year, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall announced today.

Mr Marshall said Armidale was one of only two regional cities selected by the NSW Government as locations for the 12-month autonomous vehicle trial, the finding of which will be used and applied for other parts of the State. Coffs Harbour is the other city.

“This is incredibly exciting for Armidale and our region,” Mr Marshall said. “This puts us at the cutting edge of world automated transport and driving and the eyes of Australia will be on us.

“By the end of the year, the first trial vehicle will be in Armidale at the University of New England (UNE) where staff and students will provide real time data to fine tune the service.

“Phases two and three will then target the transport needs of the elderly and CBD areas.

“Autonomous vehicles have the capacity to expand and complement our transport infrastructure by filling scheduling holes that are otherwise left blank. I can’t tell you the amount of times UNE students and our older community members have asked me what we can do about having more loop services available to them.

This gap in regular loop services, according to Mr Marshall, is precisely where the autonomous vehicle trial will be targeted.

“A trial like this coming to Armidale before anywhere else means the city, its residents, Armidale Regional Council, UNE and other transport providers around town can really get their teeth into the technology, see what can work here in town in multiple environments and position themselves to adopt autonomous vehicles in the future that will match community needs,” he said.

“Each phase will target different demographics in our community and take customer feedback. The community will in fact be driving this trial and shaping how transport here will be as Armidale continues to expand.

“There are six stakeholders as well as the NSW Government involved in this trial, including our local transport company Edwards Coaches. This shows just how much interest there is from locals and I will be doing everything I can to support local businesses being involved in this trial process.”

Phase One of the trial will occur at UNE with staff and students being involved in the testing phase and providing feedback on services. Phase Two will introduce a loop service targeted at elderly residents who often struggle to get in and around the CBD. Phase three will expand operations in the CBD area and include the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) in loop services.

Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said he was delighted the trial would come to Armidale and would be keen to hear from residents as they begin to use the service later in the year.

“It’s very exciting times – we are working with UNE and Edwards Coaches to bring this technology to our residents. This is cutting–edge technology coming right here to Armidale,” he said.

The trial will be conducted to the strictest safety standards, with global leader in the field Easy Mile providing the vehicles and Transdev partnering with council and Edwards Coaches to run the operations.

“The vehicles in the trial will be able to carry between 10-14 passengers and while they are fully automated, operators will be on board at all times and able to manually take over the vehicle,” Mr Marshall said.

“The cost of the trial will be almost entirely covered by Transport for NSW and once completed, ownership of the vehicles will be transferred to Armidale Regional Council and become community owned assets.

“This puts Armidale years ahead of the game with its community transport infrastructure and will elevate the liveability of the city even further.

“This trial is another step forward for Armidale which is taking its place as a forward thinking, smart city of the future.”

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