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A state-of-the-art driverless car will be put through its paces on Brisbane roads in the next few months in an Australia-first trial.
The purpose-built $1.5 million Renault ZOE2 was delivered from Europe recently, and will soon take part in on-road trials in Queensland's capital.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey, who was taken for a spin in the car himself on Tuesday, said the trial was a first in Australia.
"This is the first time an autonomous vehicle pilot has occurred to a speed of 50km/h in ordinary traffic conditions,” Mr Bailey said.
“We want to be at the forefront because autonomous vehicles are a very exciting prospect for the future, and Queensland is very much part of bringing this technology to the Australian context and adapting them to our unique conditions.”
Volunteers will take a ride in the car over the next few months and give feedback on the experience, while researchers will work to fine-tune the automation settings.
The car was built by French research consortium VEDECOM in collaboration with researchers and engineers from the Queensland University of Technology.
Professor Andry Rakotonirainy from QUT’s road accident research group CARRS-Q said the vehicle was fully electric and had the second-highest level of automation possible.
"The level of automation ranges from zero, which is a normal car, to level five, which is a fully automated car which goes anywhere at any time in any conditions,” Professor Rakotonirainy said.
“This car is level four, so if something bad happens it gives back control to the driver.
“The trial will ask people how well they trust the technology and how they interact with it, because this is a big issue for the future.”
Assistant Commissioner Dale Pointon said Queensland Police were fully supportive of the trial, as up to 80 per cent of road crashes were caused by human error.
"I’m really looking forward to the day all the vehicles on our road are automated and I can do some other work apart from work on traffic violations,” Mr Pointon said.
The on road trial of the ZOE2 follows the cross-state trip performed by the similarly retrofitted ZOE1 earlier this year, which was designed to test how well the AI reacted to conditions on Australian roads.
Renault ZOE2 technical specifications
- Electric motor: 80kW
- Range: About 300km in manual driving mode
- Battery: 41kWh
- Charge rate: From zero per cent to 95 per cent in 2hrs on 22kW, three-phase charger
- Sensor arrays: Lidars, stereo camera, radar, GPS, IMU
- Central display: Information screen 26cm LCD, Perception screen 17.5cm LCD
- Kerb weight: 1500 kg (base without additional equipment)
- Top speed: 50km/h (automated), 130km/h (manual)
The ZOE2 has already been put through its paces in controlled conditions at the Mount Cotton Driver Training Centre and has been granted a special permit to drive on public roads under the supervision of the research team.
It will make its "public" debut at QUT's Robotronica event at Gardens Point campus in Brisbane on Sunday.
Mr Bailey said they weren’t expecting fleets of driverless cars on Queensland streets in the next few years, but they were laying the groundwork ahead of the time when science fiction became reality.
“There are billions of dollars going into research and trials right across the world; Queensland needs to know how this fits in with our roads and infrastructure,” he said.
“This is coming - the time scale is unclear, but it is inevitable.”