A driverless and fully electric shuttle bus is set to arrive in Western Australia under RAC’s new plan to trial autonomous vehicle technology.

RAC through NAVYA, a French company specialising in intelligent transport systems, will test the shuttle bus in 2016.

RAC Group CEO Terry Agnew said that as a State, we must find solutions that incorporate a range of transport options as well as adapt to new technologies.

“For 110 years, RAC has been helping to create a better WA for its members and the community. By giving Western Australians the chance to see the technology, to eventually use it and experience it, we are learning more about the technology and working towards WA being ready for driverless vehicles,” Mr Agnew said.

“This staged trial, which is the first of its kind in Australia, will help members of the community, Government and industry consider the potential impact and opportunities of automated vehicle technology.

“The trial will also help WA develop a roadmap of changes that will need to occur for automated vehicles to safely transition on to our roads.

“Increasing levels of automation in vehicles are an inevitable part of the future, and the notion of them being on our roads is not a question of if, but when.”

Autonomous features like radar cruise control and lane detection warning systems are already available in many vehicles and several vehicle manufacturers have indicated that self-driving cars will hit the market as early as 2017.

The shuttle bus can transport up to 15 passengers and has a maximum speed of 45km per hour. The vehicle aims to complement the existing transport system over distances which are too short to travel by car but too far to walk.

The shuttle bus is fitted with multi-sensor technology providing 3D perception that allows it to map the environment, detect obstacles on the road and interpret traffic signs. The shuttle bus is the result of 10 years research and expertise which allows it to achieve the highest level of autonomy possible making it an entirely autonomous, or driverless, series vehicle.

Details of the trial, which is likely to involve a number of stages, are currently in development and RAC is working through the necessary approval processes with Government. Details will be announced in the first quarter of 2016.

RAC anticipates that this first step will lead to further trials, research and collaboration, which will all increase the WA’s understanding of how driverless vehicles can be integrated in to our transport system; and ultimately, how the technology will affect the way in which our 830,000 members and the broader community move around our State.