Those who have been impatiently awaiting the arrival of ‘the future’ can take some comfort from the news a self-driving connected and automated (CAV) truck is about to start rolling on an Australian road. This will be the first time an automated truck has been tested on public roads in this country—so it’s an important step towards the CAV-driven future that’s always on that tantalising horizon.
While mass adoption of CAVs is at least a few trips around the sun away, this trial will ultimately help us 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. Before, our trials tested how the sensors in these vehicles interpret their immediate surroundings (for example, 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 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.
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.
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.
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. The truck has been subject to weeks of rigorous testing at the Australian Automotive Research Centre (located 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, and our 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.
To learn more about our CAV trials (we’ve conducted 10 trials so far, in both Australia and North America), see cavs.transurban.com