'What we have learnt can assist us in making the rollout of autonomous vehicles a reality in the immediate future.'
La Trobe University has called for more consideration of autonomous vehicles in future infrastructure planning decisions, having concluded a 12-month self-driving bus trial on campus.
More than 500 students and staff rode the 'Autonobus' during its year on the La Trobe Bundoora campus, before providing feedback about the experience.
"It’s clear from the results of the trial that autonomous buses are already close to reality in transport users’ minds,” said Professor Ani Desai, director of the La Trobe University centre for technology infusion.
“Before jumping on board [the] Autonobus, almost 20 per cent of passengers surveyed said they could not see themselves riding on driverless buses in the future."
“After experiencing the technology first-hand, just 10 per cent of passengers still felt this way. Critically, the study also indicated that potential customers would be willing to pay a fair price for such a service," Desai concluded.
Along with greater consideration in infrastructure planning, the report calls for further self-driving trials, and "continued education and engagement to prepare communities for the arrival of autonomous vehicles" down the track.
The trial included VicRoads, the Australian Road Research Board and the RACV, all of whom are well placed to spread the word. Keolis Downer, a mobility provider involved in public transport across Australia and New Zealand, also took part.
“The trial demonstrated autonomous buses can and should play an important role in the mobility mix as a complementary service to existing public transport," said David Franks, CEO of Keolis Downer.
“We now have the data to show they can operate safely within complex environments and that there is strong public support for them."
“All levels of Governments and the private sector must work together to ensure we have the right infrastructure and regulatory systems in place to facilitate the deployment of autonomous vehicles and ensure they are integrated into the planning process for transport and urban developments," he added.