Driverless bus hits the road in first trial of its kind

24/03/2023 | 2 mins

Residents in the northern Perth suburb of Eglington will soon become accustomed to the sight of a driverless bus cruising between Marmion Avenue and Amberton Beach as The University of Western Australia’s autonomous nUWAy Bus takes part in a three-year public road trial.

"It's a very exciting time for all involved, with autonomous driving being the biggest engineering challenge of our time."

Professor Thomas Bräunl

Made possible with funding and support from property development company Stockland, it’s believed to be the first autonomous vehicle road trial in WA using locally developed technology and will involve UWA students in a unique work-integrated-learning experience.

Professor Thomas Bräunl, from UWA’s School of Engineering, said the autonomous shuttle bus project nUWAy started in 2020 as a joint project between UWA Engineering’s Renewable Energy Project and the UWA Business School.

“We acquired the shuttle bus as a shell without any software, and engineering students added hardware extensions and a full software stack to operate the vehicle,” Professor Bräunl said.

“It’s UWA’s third autonomous vehicle project, after a BMW X5 and an autonomous Formula-SAE race car, which places the University at the forefront of autonomous driving research.”

Driverless busImage: The first of two nUWAy driverless shuttles.

Professor Bräunl said the first of the two nUWAy shuttles has been driving autonomously on the UWA campus over the past two years, but with Stockland’s support it was now ready for the ultimate test.

“For the first couple of months during the trial, engineering students will ‘train’ the path and fine-tune operations before the shuttle will run as a regular service and take passengers,” he said.

“It’s a very exciting time for all involved, with autonomous driving being the biggest engineering challenge of our time.”

Stockland General Manager - WA Communities, Col Dutton, said the bus would be a fantastic addition to the community and a showcase of UWA’s innovative work in autonomous driving research.

“We are excited to partner with UWA in introducing our Amberton Beach community to the future of transport in Australia,” Mr Dutton said.

“This is both a fantastic opportunity for the public to learn about and experience driverless technology, while supporting Western Australian innovation.”

Head of Department at the UWA Business School Associate Professor Doina Olaru said Business School researchers would also be involved in the trial, investigating enablers and barriers for autonomous vehicle uptake, with a focus on trust in technology.

“Student experience will increase through the participation in a unique work-integrated-learning experience where students from around campus will ‘operate’ the bus, as well as collect data on perceptions and attitudes as part of the research team,” Associate Professor Olaru said.

Several sponsors of UWA Engineering’s Renewable Energy Project have also contributed funds towards the trial.

Media references

Carrie Cox (UWA Media and PR Adviser) 08 6488 6876

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