A self-driving truck will begin trials on Melbourne’s CityLink from today, marking the first time a truck of this kind has been tested on public Australian roads.
Transurban, which owns the CityLink toll road, says trials of the self-driving connected and automated truck will help them to better understand how roads and road technology can be future-proofed to prepare for these sorts of vehicles sharing the road in the future.
Trials with driver assistance have already been conducted, however this time the automated truck will be driving itself.
While the truck’s automated features will be in operation, a specially trained safety driver will be on board at all times. Among the three safety drivers is Breanne Turner, who told the Herald Sun that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I feel really lucky,” she said to the Melbourne newspaper. “Driving an automated truck removes a lot of the mental burden of driving a normal, non-automated truck.”
“You’re able to focus a lot more on what’s going on around you instead of worrying about managing your speed, steering, and giving enough room to cars around the truck.”
Previous trials tested how the sensors in these vehicles interpret their immediate surroundings (for example, line markings and variable speed limit signs). This time, Transurban will be testing how the truck and road communicate, by providing real-time data about traffic and road conditions to guide it on its journey.
“The trials will enable us to capture valuable insights which will help us, and our government and industry partners, make informed decisions about future infrastructure and operations. Getting a solid understanding of automated trucks’ interfacing technology is especially important given road freight is projected to grow steadily in the coming decades,” said Transurban.
“These trucks have the potential to transform the freight industry, helping to move more goods more often and better supporting the needs of both businesses and consumers, so paving the way for their ready adoption is a smart move for everyone.”
According to Transurban, the road chosen for this trial, CityLink, is one of the most technologically sophisticated roads in the world, with embedded technology including more than 600 CCTV cameras, automatic incident detection systems and smart sensors to monitor for traffic incidents such as debris and stopped vehicles.
During the trial, real-time data from CityLink’s systems will be fed directly to the CAV truck, enabling it to understand road and traffic conditions beyond its sensors.
The on-road trials will be conducted at night, when traffic is typically light. The vehicle will travel on a 27.5km route in a dedicated lane from Todd Road on the West Gate Freeway, through both the Burnley and Domain tunnels and onto the CityLink/Monash Freeway, finishing at Warrigal Road. The self-driving truck will then turn around and return along the same route.
According to Transurban, a lot of preparation went on before the self-driving truck could move onto the on-road trial phase. The truck underwent rigorous testing at the Australian Automotive Research Centre in Anglesea, with Transurban and the vehicle’s provider, the Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute, putting the truck through its paces in various controlled conditions.
Pilot vehicles will also accompany the truck initially, and Transurban’s team of 24/7 traffic control officers will also be monitoring the road and conditions using CityLink’s system of CCTV cameras and monitoring systems.
The trials are expected to conclude in mid-December.