Driverless bus visits Cleveland markets

FUTURE TECHNOLOGY: Katie Woodward, 11, with neigbour Sante Teni, 9, enjoyed a ride aboard the EZ10 bus. The pair were taken to the demonstration by Katie's dad Ken Woodward. Photos: Hannah Baker
FUTURE TECHNOLOGY: Katie Woodward, 11, with neigbour Sante Teni, 9, enjoyed a ride aboard the EZ10 bus. The pair were taken to the demonstration by Katie's dad Ken Woodward. Photos: Hannah Baker

DRIVERLESS buses could be used in the Redlands ferrying people from place like Toondah Harbour to Cleveland train station.

The buses were built to take people on “last mile journeys”, such as between carparks and public transport services.

The technology was trialled at Cleveland on Sunday in a demonstration organised by Redland City Council, bus company Transdev and autonomous vehicle maker EasyMile.

The EZ10 six-seater bus shuttled people on short return trips within a barricaded laneway set-up on Middle Street outside Cleveland Library.

The bus only travelled about seven-kilometres an hour but some passengers felt they were being driven faster.

Simon Pearce, head of EasyMile’s Asia Pacific branch, said people became hyper-conscious when travelling on the bus because of the lack of driver.

The software controlled-vehicle is kitted with sensors and a mapping system, which allows pre-defined routes of no more than five kilometres to be programmed in. 

Mr Pearce said autonomous buses, used in places like Darwin and Singapore for shuttle runs, were monitored remotely by its fleet management crew.

Steinfeld brothers Henry, 4, and Eric, 6, jumped on the driverless bus with their parents. The two enjoyed a return-ride along Middle Street.

Steinfeld brothers Henry, 4, and Eric, 6, jumped on the driverless bus with their parents. The two enjoyed a return-ride along Middle Street.

Passenger help can be provided by more local services, such as transport company Transdev, which is based in Capalaba.

The buses travel up to 45km/hr but stop when something moves into their path.

Mr Pearce said sensors did not differentiate between animals and people, instead monitoring moving objects within a scanned perimeter and stopping the vehicle when they came too close.

Mayor Karen Williams walked in front of the bus during the demonstration. She did not get hit.

Cr Williams said use of autonomous buses would not take jobs away from drivers but would complement existing services.

By helping people to catch other services, the autonomous shuttle bus would improve productivity, she said.

“It’s effectively more jobs by allowing people to get to trains (and other public transport services),” she said.

She told the crowd at the demonstration that $8 million was being spent on a water taxi terminal carpark at Macleay Island alone, a cost which could have bought a fleet of autonomous shuttle buses for the city.

Cr Williams first became aware of the driverless vehicles when visiting Singapore as part of a south-east Queensland Council of Mayors delegation last year.

The bus has since visited Mooloolabah and Ipswich as the Council of Mayors gears up to lobby for EasyMile to set up a manufacturing plant in the region

Redland Bay man and bus driver of 48 years, Des Smith, thought the shuttle bus could connect people living in narrow roaded estates to nearby public transport services.

Redland Bay man and bus driver of 48 years, Des Smith, thought the shuttle bus could connect people living in narrow roaded estates to nearby public transport services.

Transdev managing director Tilly Loughborough said the transport company wanted to lease the buses for last mile journeys, linking passengers to existing services.

She said shorter routes, such as those between carparks and public transport stations, did not warrant the costs of larger buses and the drivers to man them.

Shorter runs could be filled by automonous vehicles. All the company needed were permits, something which could be obtained from the Main Roads and Transport Department, she said.

Each EZ10 buses cost about $320,000 and last up to 14 years.

South-east Queensland Council of Mayors' Scott Smith with EasyMile's Simon Pearce, mayor Karen Williams and division six councillor Julie Talty.

South-east Queensland Council of Mayors' Scott Smith with EasyMile's Simon Pearce, mayor Karen Williams and division six councillor Julie Talty.

Redland Bay bus driver of 48 years Des Smith said he believed the small shuttle bus could be put to use in estates with narrow streets, helping to link residents with other public transport services.