The Ford Ranger has been retrofitted with automated driving capabilities to become the world’s first driverless Smart Ute. The vehicle has entered the next trial phase on Dubbo streets in NSW.
Regional NSW is exploring how automated vehicle technology could deliver a more reliable and accessible public transport offering, NSW deputy premier and minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole said.
“The Smart Ute uses drive-by-wire technology fitted with radars and cameras to collect data to allow it to drive mapped distances on the road and recognise and respond to a variety of obstacles, including kangaroos,” Toole said.
The next phase will test the ute’s ability to carry out automated routes, which will lay the foundation to safely introduce the vehicle in automated mode by mid-2022.
“No other country has to deal with the unpredictability of roos hopping in front of cars, so once the automated features are safely tested in 2022, the project will investigate opportunities for introducing kangaroo detection to the vehicle,” Toole said.
The trial will position the Central West as a leading location in future transport, member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said.
“Central West NSW is shaping up as a key hub in the development of driverless technology that will undoubtedly play a big role in shaping transport technology for the future,” Saunders said.
“The Smart Ute has spent the past few months at the Cudal Testing Facility just outside Orange, where the vehicle’s automated systems are being developed. Most new cars on our roads have some level of automated technology and trials like this are crucial in preparing for the future of mobility in Australia.”
The vehicle will collect data between Dubbo CBD, Dubbo Regional Airport and Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
A partnership between Transport for NSW, autonomous vehicle company Conigital, NRMA, Dubbo Bus Lines, Sydney Motorsport Park, mobile app developer Liftango, QBE and Dubbo Regional Council brought this trial about.