The NSW Government is set to allocate $10 million funding over the next four years to the expansion of autonomous vehicle trials.
To be announced in tomorrow’s state budget, the fund will be administered by Transport for NSW’s Smart Innovation Centre, which will be tasked with identifying relevant projects and partnerships.
NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said autonomous vehicle technology is here and NSW must make sure it’s ready to embrace it.
“A decade ago things like Uber and smart watches seemed like something out of the Jetsons. Driverless cars might feel a bit like that today but the reality is they are already being built and tested around the world,” he said.
“Having a dedicated fund for trials will mean that government, universities, the private sector and startups can partner together to test and gain insights into how these technologies will shape our future cities and regions. Driverless vehicles are going to change the playing field and open up so many new opportunities to provide personalised transport services.”
The government last September passed legislation to allow for the trialling of autonomous vehicles and promptly launched its first trial, partnering with HMI Technologies, the NRMA, Telstra, and IAG for a two year trial of a driverless shuttle bus at Sydney Olympic Park.
The first stage of the trial involved testing in an enclosed off-road environment next to Sydney Olympic Park before progressing to a trial at a closed section of the precinct. The third stage of the trial, to kick off next quarter, will see the shuttle operating live at the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, testing infrastructure and how customers interact with the shuttle.
The government also in March launched a collaboration between motorway operator Transurban and car manufacturers BMW, Lexus, Hyundai, Mercedes, Audi, Tesla, and Volvo to conduct on-road trials on motorways including the Lane Cove Tunnel, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Harbour Tunnel, the M5, and the Eastern Distributor.
Constance said at the time that the project will look to “build trust and reliability” for driverless vehicles.
“This research will show us where we may need to make changes in how we maintain and improve our current road infrastructure, as well as how we design, build and manage smart infrastructure in the future,” he said.
The $10 million in funding comes after the launch earlier this year of Transport for NSW’s Future Transport Digital Accelerator, based out of the Sydney Startup Hub in Wynyard.
The ‘accelerator’ will run a series of innovation challenges, with the first focus on ‘mobility as a service’, or MaaS.
The challenge is seeking solutions to cater for problems facing the transport system, from increasing population to constrained capacity, last mile connectivity, and ability to meet future demand.