By Lauren Reid
Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018
After years of hard work and collaboration, the Flinders Express autonomous bus – or FLEX for short – has finally launched and is available for public use at Flinders Tonsley campus.
FLEX is SA’s first driverless bus and will be integral in helping develop not only further autonomous technology, but also the road infrastructure and laws that will support it.
Project partners Flinders University, SA Department for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and RAA together with 7 industry project supporters, will collaborate over the next 5 years on a 3-stage trial of an autonomous shuttle bus as ‘first mile – last mile’ public transport solution.
In FLEX’s case, this means running shuttle services between the nearby Clovelly Park Train Station and Tonsley’s Main Assembly Building (MAB) to begin with. FLEX is there to take passengers for the first or last mile of their journey, to assist with overall mobility.
This $4 million research project has started with trials at the Tonsley campus and will eventually be rolled out to the Bedford Park campus and Flinders Medical Centre precincts.
The public can book rides during the inter-peak period (10am-2pm). All trips will have a chaperone on-board and will mostly travel 15-20km/h to make sure passengers and pedestrians alike are safe and sound.
RAA has provided support for the project by insuring the shuttle bus, providing staff support and facilitating a passenger survey to gain data on public attitudes and experiences over time. The survey data will help inform RAA’s policy and advocacy position, as well as our community engagement and education programs.
Projects like FLEX aren’t just about tech for tech’s sake. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to help real personal and social issues by enhancing mobility for children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
The overall project aims are to build public awareness of and confidence in autonomous vehicle technology, achieve integration with current road networks and public transport systems, and also achieve carbon neutral status.