Perth’s rideshare network is already more innovative than most capitals with Australian-owned operators Hi Oscar and Shofer up against multinational giant Uber.
Next year, a new kind of rideshare joins the market.
On Wednesday, the West Australian government announced a driverless rideshare system will land in Perth in April next year, making it the first Australian city – and one of only three worldwide – to trial the service.
In partnership with the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), the state government will test the French-made Autonom cars featuring "state-of-the-art" technology, including 10 light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors, six cameras, four radars and odometry.
These features arm the vehicles with 3D perception of the environment; and two Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) antennae help them map their surrounds, pinpoint their position and connect to a supervision service. They are entirely electric-powered and completely autonomous.
An approval process is currently underway, with the government yet to sign off on the off-road and late on-road testing locations, which will be used for the trial.
As RAC General Manager of Public Policy Anne Still tells Broadsheet: "This type of trial is the first of its kind in Australasia, and among the first in the world." Meaning, the company is not taking any chances.
Likewise, in a statement, WA’s transport minister Rita Saffioti vowed to work closely with both RAC and NAVYA to ensure the trial is a success, with “the safety of the public being of the highest priority", of course.
Like the RAC Intellibus – a driverless shuttle bus also developed by NAVYA and launched in South Perth one year ago – trials of the vehicles will be open to the public. Since its launch, at least 10000 people have booked the bus service which has already travelled more than 6500 kilometres. Still says the Intellibus has given the community a chance to experience autonomous technology, while preparing Australia for the transition to driverless vehicles.
The exact date the French-made Autonom vehicles will land in Perth is still unknown, but Broadsheet can confirm a trained chaperone with the power to override the vehicles will be present. For Still, driverless technology represents an exciting new era of road safety.
"In the long term, increasing levels of automation may eliminate human error on the roads and potentially decrease or eliminate the number of crashes which occur as a result of speeding, distraction and inattention,” she says. “Quite simply our roads will be much safer."