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Newcastle unveils new driverless shuttle bus

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Newcastle, the second largest city in NSW, will trial a new autonomous shuttle bus to service its harbour foreshore.

The 11-seater driverless bus represents a giant leap forward in the city’s quest to create a smart, integrated transport network.

“This is a major milestone for our smart city journey,” said Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes at the official launch.

“I look forward to working with Transport for NSW and partners Keolis Downer on this unique opportunity to make automated transport in Newcastle a reality.”

Carrying the City of Newcastle’s branding, the autonomous shuttle bus will soon begin servicing the city’s harbour foreshore as part of a 12-month trial.

Passengers can take in views of the city’s harbour along the proposed 2km loop service, making it a tourist attraction.

After a couple months the shuttle bus will navigate a larger circuit to include some of Newcastle’s other beachside destinations.

Strict safety standards

Keolis Downer New Mobilities Manager Sue Wiblin confirmed the trial would meet all relevant safety standards.

“Over the next month, we will complete a rigorous safety-testing program, on road and off road, to prepare the vehicle for customer services,” Ms Wiblin said.

“In-built computers and sensing systems capable of detecting obstacles, anticipating movement and evaluating risk of collision are what sets this vehicle apart from the risks associated with human-controlled cars.”

While the vehicle is fully automated, a chaperone will be able to stop it via an override system if required.

Newcastle has been working hard to establish itself as a leading Australian smart city.

Innovation awards

It was recognised for its innovative initiatives with a brace of awards at the IDC Smart Cities Asia-Pacific Awards this week.

The smart city infrastructure component of the Hunter Innovation Project (HIP) was announced outright winner of the Land Use and Planning category among an illustrious field of cities, including Singapore.

The HIP has introduced Australia’s largest installation of smart poles, smart lighting, free public WiFi, an environmental sensor network and an Internet of Things (IoT) lab to Newcastle’s streets.

The City’s Smart Moves Newcastle – Mobility Projects, under which the driverless vehicle was delivered – also shared top honours in the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Public Transit and Rideshare category with Chinese tech powerhouse Shenzhen.

“Of the seven Australian projects nominated as finalists in the 2019 round of the IDC Smart City awards, Newcastle was the only city to come away with wins,” the Lord Mayor said.

“It speaks volumes for our growing stature that we are mixing it with, and beating, established Asia-Pacific smart cities like Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Busan, Auckland, Taipei and Singapore."

*HIP is a $17 million collaboration between the City of Newcastle, the NSW Government, University of Newcastle, Newcastle Now and Hunter DiGiT.

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