The world’s first driverless ute is one step closer to reality, with the Ford Ranger now retrofitted with automated driving capabilities as it enters the next trial phase on Dubbo streets in the weeks ahead.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said regional NSW was leading the way in exploring how automated vehicle technology could deliver a more reliable and accessible public transport offering.
“The Smart Ute uses drive-by-wire technology fitted with radars and cameras to collect data to allow it to drive mapped distances on the road and recognise and respond to a variety of obstacles, including kangaroos,” Mr Toole said.
“This next phase will see the Smart Ute driven by our expert operators to collect data that will be used to assess the vehicle’s ability to carry out automated routes, laying the foundation for introducing the vehicle safely in automated mode by mid-2022.
“No other country has to deal with the unpredictability of roos hopping in front of cars, so once the automated features are safely tested in 2022, the project will investigate opportunities for introducing kangaroo detection to the vehicle.”
Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said the trial would position the Central West as a leading location in future transport.
“Central West NSW is shaping up as a key hub in the development of driverless technology that will undoubtedly play a big role in shaping transport technology for the future,” Mr Saunders said.
“The Smart Ute has spent the past few months at the Cudal Testing Facility just outside Orange, where the vehicle’s automated systems are being developed. Most new cars on our roads have some level of automated technology and trials like this are crucial in preparing for the future of mobility in Australia.”
The Smart Ute trial has come about thanks to a partnership between Transport for NSW, autonomous vehicle company Conigital, NRMA, Dubbo Bus Lines, Sydney Motorsport Park, mobile app developer Liftango, QBE and Dubbo Regional Council. The vehicle will collect data between Dubbo CBD, Dubbo Regional Airport and Taronga Western Plains Zoo.