An autonomous vehicle trial at a Canberra retirement village has wrapped up, with the pilot program “well received” by residents.
Kangara Waters Retirement Village and Aged Care Centre in Belconnen was home to an autonomous, driverless shuttle vehicle for a two-week period, which was used to pick-up and drop-off residents to the village’s facilities, along an eight-stop circuit.
IRT Group, the owner of Kangara Waters, engaged the trial to understand how an autonomous vehicle could improve the independence and quality of life for residents, according to IRT Group CEO Patrick Reid.
He said residents have provided “great feedback” about the trial of the vehicle, and IRT Group would be sharing their findings with government and industry bodies to inform future policy and regulation around the use of the vehicles.
“With the autonomous vehicle, residents have the ability to travel more readily. This technology has the potential to address issues of social isolation and loneliness by enabling residents to get out and about more easily and take part in their community,” Mr Reid said.
“While we’ve established the technology works in this environment and that there’s a desire for it, regulation has some catching up to do before we can look at having something like this here permanently.”
IRT Group worked with company EasyMile to bring the trial to life, with EasyMile providing an EZ10 autonomous shuttle able to seat up to eight passengers at a time.
EasyMile Australia and New Zealand managing director Greg Giraud said the EZ10 vehicle is “designed to be safer than any human-driven vehicle” through the use of two independent safety subsystems to prevent collisions and detect obstacles. He said driverless vehicles provide more than just a way of moving people from one place to another.
“Autonomous vehicles will change the way we transport people and the Kangara Waters project is a great opportunity to demonstrate how our technology can address mobility and transport challenges,” Mr Giraud said.
“We strongly believe that mobility should be accessible and equitable to everyone regardless of geography and age or disability, and the EZ10 comes equipped with a variety of features for mobility impaired passengers, such as an automated wheelchair ramp.”
Mr Giraud said challenges remain for the operation and implementation of autonomous vehicles more broadly, due to legislative and regulatory barriers, community acceptance and trust and a transition period where autonomous vehicles are likely to operate alongside traditional vehicles.