A self-driving connected and automated (CAV) truck is set to start rolling on Australian roads.
Transurban has announced it will begin testing an automated truck in Melbourne, marking what it calls an important step towards a CAV-driven future.
The trial, according to Transurban, will ultimately help it better understand how roads and road technology can be future-proofed to prepare for CAVs joining the mix of vehicles already on Melbourne’s roads and beyond.
“We’ve already conducted CAV trials with driver assistance on our roads, but this trial is a little different as the automated truck will be driving itself,” Transurban said in a statement.
Previously, the toll road operator had tested how the sensors in CAVs interpreted their immediate surroundings by using line markings and variable speed limit signs.
“This time, we’re also testing how one of our roads – CityLink in Melbourne –‘talks’ to the automated truck by providing its real-time data about traffic and road conditions to guide it on its journey,” the company said.
Transurban expects the trials will enable it to capture valuable insights to make informed decisions about future infrastructure and operations that its government and industry partners can also learn from.
Having a solid understanding of automated trucks’ interfacing technology is especially important to the company given road freight is projected to grow steadily in the coming decades.
These trucks, according to Transurban, have the potential to transform the freight industry, by helping to move more goods more often and better supporting the needs of both businesses and consumers.
“Paving the way for their ready adoption is a smart move for everyone,” said Transurban.
CityLink, where the CAV will be evaluated, is one of the most technologically sophisticated roads in the world.
It has 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.
During its on-road trials, the truck will only travel at night, when traffic is typically light.
The vehicle will travel 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 CAV truck will then turn around and return along the same route.
“Getting the trial CAV truck to this stage (on-road trials) has taken a lot of preparation,” said Transurban.
The truck has been subject to weeks of 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.
While the truck’s automated features will be in operation — testing them is the point of the trial — a specially trained safety driver will be aboard at all times.
Pilot vehicles will accompany the truck initially. Transburban’s team of 24/7 traffic control officers will also be monitoring the road and conditions using CityLink’s extensive system of CCTV cameras and monitoring systems.