The NSW government has called on industry to help work out how autonomous vehicles could benefit the state’s future transport network through a series of trials in regional NSW.
Transport for NSW opened a formal expression of interest process late last week to better understand the ins and outs of connected and automated vehicles (CAV) ahead of conducting the trials from mid-next year.
“We understand CAV technology has great potential to improve transport outcomes for our customers, and we also recognise the role transport agencies must play in supporting innovation and enabling trials to occur," the agency said in tender documents.
“The RFEOI [expression of interest] process is designed to allow creative ideas which can be further developed through interactive sessions to identify those with the most potential to be developed into trial projects.”
The agency is looking partner with start-ups, major tech players, local councils and academic institutions capable of contributing “innovative system and ideas in their own right or in partnership with others”.
It is also offering to provide seed funding to help develop solutions, such as for vehicle prototyping, but says at least a third of the cost must be covered for each project.
The “innovative transport technology” is expected to be developed, tested and delivered by partners directly to customers. Proposals will need to be “well developed” and contain “end-to-end projects”.
Trials also won’t be limited to public transport services, with other private transport options like taxis and on-demand personal and shared mobility solutions to be considered.
While trial sites are yet to be decided, TfNSW has pointed to regional cities with a population of 30,000-plus that "are expected to be a focus for growth over the next 20 years” like Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour or Dubbo – the location of the current digital drivers licence trials – as likely contenders for the trials.
TfNSW said lessons learned from the trials "will be relevant to other areas across NSW”.
The government introduced legislation in August allowing automated vehicle trials to take place. A trial of a driverless bus that will eventually be used around Sydney’s Olympic Park was the state's first government-initiated driverless project.
The regional trials are expected to run for up to 24 months, with successful trials potentially leading to a broader rollout of the service.