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City’s first driverless vehicle hits the streets


Novocastrian Matthew Morris has described being one of the first passengers on the city’s driverless shuttle bus as an “absolutely amazing” experience.

“As a person who doesn’t drive, to see autonomous technology pop up in Newcastle, I am really excited to see how [fellow] Novocastrians react to the technology and hopefully in the future I might be able to own something like this and get around,” he said.

“The vehicle is surprisingly uneventful, you wouldn’t expect it to be anything exciting, it almost sounds rude to say boring but that is exactly what it should be, it was uneventful like any other vehicle.

“What I like about autonomous technology is that it doesn’t get distracted, it doesn’t look down to text, it doesn’t drink behind the wheel, so it’s a technology that is always looking out for you.”

The driverless shuttle bus is set to mix with traffic along Wharf Road as part of a three-month trial.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen welcomed the first passengers as they ushered in the pilot project on Monday morning.

“I’m delighted to see the trial underway and people riding the city’s first driverless vehicle,” he said.

“This is another milestone in Newcastle’s smart city journey as we trial the future of automated transport as part of the city’s ‘living lab’ experiment.

“With the help of Federal Government funding, the project will assess driverless vehicles in mixed traffic conditions and the role they can play in multimodal transport systems.

“Tourists will now be to be able to take in our magnificent harbour and foreshore and return home telling people they were among the first passengers in Australia on a shuttle with nobody at the wheel, or with no steering wheel at all in fact.”

Shuttle operator Keolis Downer’s Hunter General Manager, Mark Dunlop, encouraged residents to take part in the trial by boarding the bus.

The free shuttle will run between the Watt Street and Nobbys Beach roundabouts on weekdays between 10am and 2pm.

“We encourage Novocastrians to come to Wharf Road and take a ride to experience the future of transportation using this technology,” Mr Dunlop said.

“It’s only a short walk from the light rail on Scott Street and frequent bus services to Customs House.

“We are very interested in the public perception around this technology and will be asking for further feedback after receiving a large number of responses to a survey last November when the shuttle was on show during the Newcastle 500.

“Passengers can be assured of the safety of the vehicle and the training of our onboard chaperones, who have additional qualifications to their skills as bus drivers.”

The bus is fully accessible to everyone but, to comply with COVID-19 health orders, there is only space for three passengers and a chaperone.

For more information, go to the Newcastle’s driverless shuttle trial website.

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