For a while now, we’ve heard about self-driving vehicles being “just around the corner”. The common perception is that the technology will come in the form of new vehicles. The reality is that not everyone that desires autonomous driving is going to want to or be in a position financially to purchase a new vehicle. This is where retrofitting comes in. In what they are claiming is a world’s first, one company is adding self-driving tech to pickup trucks in a new pilot program taking place in Australia.
International infrastructure company Amey is set to begin trials about 250 miles northwest of Sydney in the city of Dubbo. The project actually started back in June with eight months of development work. The company is taking regular pickup trucks and retrofitting them with autonomous driving hardware and software. To hail a ride, customers can use an app on their smartphone.
Autonomous Tech to Help Avoid Accidents with Kangaroos
Amey will also be testing technology that will help self-driving vehicles detect wildlife that may find their way into the roads. In Australia, incidents with animals account for 5% of crashes. 90% of those involve kangaroos and wallabies. The presence of these animals is quite common on both rural and suburban roads. Having a way to detect them would greatly improve safety for both drivers and wildlife.
“No other country has to deal with the unpredictability of kangaroos hopping in front of cars, I’m excited we’re trialing technology that protects drivers as well as wildlife on country roads,” said Melinda Pavey, NSW’s Minister for Roads, Maritim,e and Freight.
Self-Driving Pickup Trucks to Start in March 2020
The full self-driving service will start in March 2020 and last for about one year. Along with a group of local and international partners, Amey is conducting the pilot program with support from Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW).
“This is an exciting project for us in Australia. The power of technology in supporting mobility for those living in more remote areas of the world is of real importance,” said Michael Holme, project manager for Amey Consulting. “The trial shows the practical outcomes that can be delivered for our communities in Australia when investment is made into smart infrastructure.”
Check out our articles on London’s robot bartender and driverless vehicles testing during Florida’s hurricane season.