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Adelaide Airport flags driverless shuttles

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Adelaide Airport says it is interested in trialing driverless cars or buses as the State Government works on legislation to legalise the vehicles.

The idea was floated during a workshop on self-driving vehicles held by the RAA yesterday.

Adelaide Airport’s general manager of operations Vince Scanlon said the airport wanted to find out more about the use of driverless cars within its boundaries.

“For example, they could be used as shuttles between our long-term car park and the terminal or incorporated into the development of our new airport business district,” he said.

“Similar systems have been introduced overseas, such as the driverless pods at Heathrow Airport, but it would be worth exploring how we might become the first airport in Australia to trial this technology.”

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said the government would be producing a discussion paper on driverless cars in the coming months with a view to preparing draft legislation by the end of the year to address the vehicles in state law.

“The State Government has identified an opportunity to be proactive and lead the nation by paving the way for driverless vehicles in South Australia and we welcome the prospect of partners such as the Adelaide Airport in this pursuit,” Mullighan said.

In February, Governor Hieu Van Le flagged the government’s intention to review roads legislation in his speech to open the new Parliament.

RAA senior manager mobility and automotive policy Mark Borlace said driverless cars should be trialed in South Australia, but that it would have to be a slow process.

“Adelaide could lead the way when it comes to putting this technology to the test,” he said.

“The reality is that they will come very slowly, and probably won’t be mainstream for a couple of decades.

“People are quite rightly anxious about this technology and the reality is they need to be exposed to it slowly.”

He said shuttle vehicles at the airport would be a perfect way to demonstrate the possibilities of driverless cars in a controlled environment.

“It’s a way of getting people, at least, exposed to that technology,” he said.

“Other airports around the world have been able to do it.

“We also explored … whether these technologies can go just as easily into retirement villages and maybe even into elements of supported care.

“… maybe a self-drive car could shuttle (older people) from their retirement village to the local shops or community centre so they can remain mobile and stay in touch with friends and family.”

Chief executive officer of South Australian science and engineering company Cohda Dr Paul Gray said his company would be interested in collaborating with the airport on future trials.

Cohda produces hardware and software components which allow cars to “communicate” with each other on the road and avoid crashes. The company is working on similar technology for use in driverless cars.

“Codha has plans to be in a position to be trialing such cars by the end of this year,” Gray said.

“It would potentially be Cohda testing vehicles on the road.

“South Australia has the capability and the companies that are skilled in this to really play a big part in it all.

“This is quite an advanced thing.”

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