My First Driverless Vehicle Riding Experience!

I’m ashamed to say that it has taken me two weeks to write about one of the highlights of my trip down under….I got to ride in a driverless shuttle in Perth, Australia!  Earlier this year, the RAC (a private membership organization that, amongst other things, advocates for safer roads in Australia), in partnership with the State transportation agency, acquired a fully autonomous (driverless) electric shuttle through French manufacturer, NAVYA. Referred to as the Intellibus, this Level 4 automated vehicle is navigating a few kilometers of public roadway near the Perth waterfront. Today, with a waiting list of thousands of people, the RAC is allowing members of the general public to sign up as a volunteer to ride in the Intellibus.

Some of my impressions:

  • This vehicle moves SLOWLY. I probably could have run faster than the Intellibus. That being said, the speed is slow on purpose. In addition to the fact that the RAC is testing the technology (and its reactions to obstacles), I would imagine that this is probably what the general public can handle at this point.
  • The other people’s response to the experience was priceless. I watched one woman go from disbelief to amusement to an external processing of what her life could be like with a driverless vehicle. Another person grilled the “chaperone” (who was extremely well-versed in the technology and the industry) about how the technology works. The “chaperone” explained that he has also had riders clutching the seats out of fear. These interactions, to me, are what it’s all about: building public awareness and acceptance around the technology.
  • The vehicle stopped very abruptly anytime anything appeared in its path. The vehicle was purposely programmed this way to maximize safety and minimize risks. Even if a cyclists was a few meters away, the vehicle stopped abruptly. This programmed “leeway” (or lack thereof) is an important consideration as these vehicles are introduced into our public roads.
  • The pre- and post- ride surveys were fantastic. The RAC is getting some very early public data regarding public acceptance, public confusions, potential future applications, etc.

Bottom line: I was so impressed with the RAC and the driverless vehicle experience. The RAC staff spent many months navigating the all aspects of the procurement process, regulatory exceptions, liability requirements, public communications, partnering with the state government, and the list goes on. In my opinion, they are paving the way for both the public and private sector and I was thrilled to have this opportunity.  Has anyone had any similar driverless vehicle experiences?


About Lauren Isaac

Lauren Isaac is the Director of Business Initiatives for the North American operation of EasyMile. Easymile provides electric, driverless shuttles that are designed to cover short distances in multi-use environments. Prior to working at EasyMile, Lauren worked at WSP where she was involved in various projects involving advanced technologies that can improve mobility in cities. Lauren wrote a guide titled “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” regarding how local and regional governments should respond to autonomous vehicles in the short, medium, and long term. In addition, Lauren maintains the blog, “Driving Towards Driverless”, and has presented on this topic at more than 75 industry conferences. She recently did a TEDx Talk, and has been published in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune among other publications.
This entry was posted in Driverless Car Development, Government Considerations and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My First Driverless Vehicle Riding Experience!

  1. Yee-Fan Riu says:

    Thank you for sharing your fun experience! That makes all the sense in the world- to have the speed be slow for now. I would love to have something like that here!


  2. Blair Schlecter says:

    Very neat!


  3. Ken Pyle says:

    Very cool, Lauren. Not quite in time for your wedding chariot. Thanks for reporting.


  4. Lacey Jane Wolfe says:

    You make this sound like a fun experience, Lauren. When I’ve imagined taking my first spin in a driverless car, I’ve never pictured other first-timers in the car with me. I need to practice looking calm and cool so I’ll be ready when the opportunity presents itself here in Seattle.


  5. Good job! 🙂 Thank You for reporting. xoxo


  6. Praphulla Chaudhari says:

    Thank you for sharing. I used similar service at Abu Dhabi. The speed was good for the campus application and may go higher for urban applications. The ride was very good and extremely comfortable.


  7. Pingback: ITS World Congress 2016: sharing, apps, automation and more | SocColLab

  8. Great experience……….thanks for sharing this with us.


  9. Pingback: When are Driverless Vehicles REALLY Coming?! | Driving Towards Driverless Cars

  10. Clarkson says:

    So one day, will this vehicle replace the public bus transport in Perth?
    Or would it be better suited to move people on smaller distances, such as mine workers, employees along premises, airport passengers, etc… ?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s