World-first driverless ute trial in Dubbo

Smart ute will operate for 12 months, specifically focusing on kangaroo avoidance

World-first driverless ute trial in Dubbo
Pavey (centre) at the announcement


The New South Wales city of Dubbo will be the first place in the world to see a driverless ute in the wild, with a focus on how it handles kangaroos.

NSW roads minister Melinda Pavey, Dubbo MP Troy Grant and Nationals candidate Dugald Saunders recently announced that the autonomous ute that will connect key locations within Dubbo, whilst also focusing on how driverless vehicles handle kangaroos movements.

"No other country has to deal with the unpredictability of kangaroos hopping in front of cars," Pavey says.  

"I’m excited we’re trialling technology that protects drivers as well as wildlife on country roads."

Current driverless technology is unable to react to the unpredictability of kangaroos.

Last year, Volvo announced that it was sending its engineers to Australia specifically to map how kangaroos move for its Large Animal Detection System, as their hopping movement apparently makes it difficult for systems to judge how far away they are.

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Reportedly a Toyota HiLux, the Smart ute will be a crew cab retrofitted with automation technology – requiring eight months in development before operating 12 months on-road.

On NSW roads, there are about 100 serious injuries a year due to collisions with kangaroos and wallabies, with two deaths occurring in 2018.

The vehicle will operate between Dubbo CBD, Dubbo Regional Airport and Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Grant says the community in Dubbo will be able to experience the smart ute during the 12-month trial phase in 2019.

"I’m excited to see Dubbo taking its place in the development of driverless technology that will undoubtedly play a big role in shaping transport technology of the future," Grant says.

Saunders believes the community in Dubbo know all too well the threat kangaroos pose to regional drivers.

"Crashes involving kangaroos can be deadly. This trial will advance ways that cars of the future can detect and avoid collisions with the animals," Saunders says.


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