A driverless Volvo XC90 has been tested at speeds of up to 70km/h on a closed section of Adelaide’s Southern Expressway in an Australian first.
During the demonstration on Saturday morning, the car displayed its automatic lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and active queue capabilities while being supervised by a trained Volvo operator.
It travelled alongside a pace car to simulate traffic flow to show first-hand how the driverless vehicle technology interacts with other road users and adapts to changing conditions.
The Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative is being spearheaded by road research and technology authority, ARRB.
Group managing director, Gerard Waldron, said the demonstration marks the first in a series of field trials nationally to identify and assess what needs to be done to make driverless cars appropriate for Australia. He said the trials will have a particular emphasis on human factors that are encountered behind the wheel.
South Australian premier, Jay Weatherill, said the government is encouraging the development of new technology which promises to improve safety and lower emissions but also offers opportunities for the state’s economy.
“This industry has the potential to revolutionise transport in Australia,” he said. “We want to be at the forefront of this paradigm shift towards an industry which is anticipated to be worth more than $90 billion globally by 2030.”
Volvo Car Australia managing director, Kevin McCann, said the company is aiming to make the technology available in production cars in the near future.
“The demonstration marks the beginning of a long and important process,” he said. With European researchers having a roadmap for the introduction of driverless vehicles by 2020, Australia needs to keep pace.
“Legislation urgently needs to be amended like it has been in South Australia. It’s also vitally important we educate Australian road users on the benefits of driverless technology will bring to their lifestyles, to their safety, and in relieving congestion issues on our roads,” he said.