The region's first fully-automated, driverless shuttle vehicle will be in a 12-month trial at the University of New England by the end of the year.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the three-phase trial would focus on varying community demographics and deliver real-time data that will inform the development of driverless technology in other areas.
“The vehicles in the trial will be able to carry between 10-14 passengers and while they are fully automated, operators will be on board at all times and able to manually take over the vehicle,” Mr Marshall said.
“The cost of the trial will be almost entirely covered by Transport for NSW and once completed, ownership of the vehicles will be transferred to Armidale Regional Council and become community owned assets.”
The trial was announced at around 10am on Monday at Coffs Harbour, the second city to test the driverless shuttles in the state's regional roll-out.
The vehicles were first introduced at Sydney's Olympic Park, where they have been undergoing trials for the past few months.
“Autonomous vehicles have the capacity to expand and complement our transport infrastructure by filling scheduling holes that are otherwise left blank. I can’t tell you the amount of times UNE students and our older community members have asked me what we can do about having more loop services available to them," Mr Marshall said.
“Phases two and three will then target the transport needs of the elderly and CBD areas."
“A trial like this coming to Armidale before anywhere else means the city, its residents, Armidale Regional Council, UNE and other transport providers around town can really get their teeth into the technology, see what can work here in town in multiple environments and position themselves to adopt autonomous vehicles in the future that will match community needs."
Phase One of the trial will occur at UNE with staff and students being involved in the testing phase and providing feedback on services. Phase Two will introduce a loop service targeted at elderly residents who often struggle to get in and around the CBD. Phase three will expand operations in the CBD area and include the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) in loop services.
Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said he was delighted the trial would come to Armidale and would be keen to hear from residents as they begin to use the service later in the year.
“It’s very exciting times – we are working with UNE and Edwards Coaches to bring this technology to our residents. This is cutting–edge technology coming right here to Armidale,” he said.