Perth, Western Australia’s sunny capital, is set to become one of the first places in the world to trial an Uber-like driverless car ridesharing service.
From April 2017, trial passengers will be able to order robot cars via their phones and be taken to such destinations as (fires up Wikipedia) Elizabeth Quay, Forrest Place, and the famous Swan River—without having to make small talk with anybody. Except for the human “chaperone” who is legally required to sit in on the ride to make sure nothing goes wrong.
The West Australian government has partnered with the RAC and a French driverless car company, NAVYA, to bring the service to Perth. Another trial will take place in Paris, and in a US city yet to be announced. The cars use multiple 3D sensors to detect obstacles in their pathand respond to unexpected situations. They’ll fit up to six passengers, driving at a maximum speed of 90km per hour (although during the trial they will operate between 20km per hour and 50km per hour).
Speaking to local press at the launch, RAC WA CEO Terry Agnew heralded in Perth’s “driverless revolution” that would eventually eliminate human error on the roads. "It's very important with any new technology to stay ahead of the pack and this is the logical next phase.
"Increasing levels of automation in vehicles are an inevitable part of the future, and the notion of them being in widespread use on our roads is not a question of if, but when."
At this stage, it’s hoped Perth’s new driverless cars will provide passengers with short inner-city journeys that complement existing public transport infrastructure. WA has been quick to embrace autonomous vehicles, and already has two driverless public transport “intellibuses” that operate in South Perth.
If the trial period is successful, Perth could enjoy a full version of the driverless app-powered rideshare service by 2021.
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