Autonomous shuttle trial headed for rural South Australia

The trial is aimed at showing rural regions what autonomy can do for mobility-impaired people.

A new autonomous trial focusing on elderly and mobility-impaired people is headed to regional South Australia, in a push to show how self-driving cars can operate in a rural environment.

The trial will take place in Renmark, around three hours north-east of Adelaide, and was this morning announced by Stephan Knoll, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government in South Australia at the International Driverless Vehicle Summit (IDVS).

“We’re actually keen to help regional South Australia grapple with this technology,” the minister told the crowd at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for those in parts of South Australia that are very, very used to and wedded to driving a vehicle, showing them again how this technology can be embedded as part of the way they operate.”

EasyMile, an autonomous shuttle manufacturing company with a presence in South Australia, has been pushing to show what driverless vehicles can do for transport-light regional areas since June, when it applied for the permit required to test in Renmark.

Similar trials have been approved for Coffs Harbour and Armidale in regional New South Wales.

Up until this point, a large percentage of consumer-facing self-driving trials have focused on urban environments, be it university carparks or busy highway corridors.

According to the minister, who spoke about the challenge of convincing the public of autonomy’s veracity, getting rural bums on autonomous seats is another step toward widespread acceptance of what is still a young technology.

“We need to be permissive… we need to find ways to say yes,” he said, speaking on the range of opportunities popping up around autonomy.

The trial will run with EasyMile EZ10 autonomous vehicles. With space for 15 people and ramp support for those with impaired mobility, it’ll run for around 14 hours on a single charge, and can integrate with regular traffic without any infrastructure changes.

Images are of the EZ10. We’ll update this story when specific pictures of the Renmark vehicle become available.