Redland City Council, RACQ launch driverless bus trial on Karragarra Island

A QUEENSLAND-first driverless bus trial was launched on Karragarra Island this morning, set to pave the way for autonomous vehicles across the state.

The EasyMile EZ10 Smart Shuttle - which uses sensors and GPS to navigate along a programmed route - will be making trips around the island on weekdays until May 2020.

It will make eight stops on a loop about three-and-a-half kilometres long.

RACQ head of public policy Rebecca Michael said the trial would give companies, communities and governments a greater understanding of autonomous vehicles, their suitability to Australian driving conditions and how they interacted with other road users.

"It's a critical step in the broader process of integrating this technology more permanently on our roads in future, but it's equally as important that it's trusted by Queenslanders," Dr Michael said.

The project's wheels started turning in 2017 after mayor Karen Williams saw autonomous vehicles in use at Singapore's Gardens by the Bay.

QUEENSLAND FIRST: Mayor Karen Williams with RACQ head of public policy Rebecca Michael.

QUEENSLAND FIRST: Mayor Karen Williams with RACQ head of public policy Rebecca Michael.

"I knew then that this innovation could make a real difference to our island communities," she said.

"This bus is the first-ever form of public transport for the Karragarra Island community which has some incredibly unique transport challenges that present a need for innovative solutions like this.

"There's a strong reliance on private vehicles and the low traffic and low speed environment on the island makes it the perfect place to host this innovative trial. This is all about testing the technology to see if it can then be deployed to other areas, including our other residential islands."

The small six-seat shuttle is symmetrical and can travel forwards and backwards. Several sensors form a 360 degree view up to 80 metres out from the vehicle.

"When it's moving, all these are working together to pick up obstacles. If it sees something in the way like a parked car, it will start slowing down," Redland City Council transport planner Tim Mitchell said.

"When it's moving it compares the programmed route with what it's seeing and then if everything's as it should be, it keeps going. It also has a high-spec GPS with 20 (millimetre) accuracy and uses the odometry - wheel displacement and movement - to know where it is and how it's tracking."

It currently travels up to 20 kilometres an hour. Currently, an operator must be in the bus while it is in motion, but Mr Mitchell said the companies were working towards a fully autonomous vehicle.

According to EasyMile, similar vehicles operate in more than 20 countries with no accidents to date.

Karragarra Island resident Joshua Lamb said islanders had generally been enthusiastic about the project.

"I'm really excited and we're really proud of the bus. We hope that it's going to be a raging success," he said.

Residents and visitors could ride the bus for free during the trial. The bus runs between 9.30 and 3.30pm on weekdays.