Perth, the capital of West Australia, has become the first city in Australia to test a self-driving battery electric bus.
The Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RAC) received a specific permit from the state government to conduct the three-month test that began last week on public roads.
The route is about 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) long, and takes 20 minutes to complete the circuit.
Patrick Walker, RAC executive general manager, told Mashable he expects the route will be extended if the initial test goes well.
Built by the French company NAVYA SAS, the $250,000 RAC Intellibus can shuttle 11 passengers and is capable of a 28 mph speed (45 kmh), but during the Perth test will only travel at 12 miles per hour (20 kmh).
The bus is equipped with six LiDAR sensors that use ultraviolet light to sense and avoid obstacles such as pedestrians, bicyclists, animals and of course, cars and trucks.
There are also four stereo-vision cameras that can interpret traffic signals and signs. Autonomous brakes can automatically halt the shuttle if necessary.
Each passenger has a seatbelt but here is no driver’s seat. Instead, a “chaperone” will be onboard mainly to answer questions, but also to hit an emergency stop button if needed.
Walker said to Mashable that he considers the bus as a level-five automation — the highest level of vehicle autonomy under the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) classification procedure — since in has no steering wheel, pedals or driver.
Autonomous buses, or “robo buses” as some are calling them, may eventually be a viable public transportation option.
The self-driving technology could not only notably increase vehicle safety and efficiency, but would eliminate the cost associated with drivers.
West Australia’s Transport Minister, Dean Nalder, said it is not a matter of if the autonomous technology will come to West Australia, but when, and the time has come. “It is important West Australians are aware this technology is not confined to Hollywood blockbusters, but has actually arrived in Perth.”