Coffs Harbour's automated shuttle on trial at Marian Grove Village Toormina

Waiting for the driverless bus at Marian Grove. Photo Mitchell Franzi
Waiting for the driverless bus at Marian Grove. Photo Mitchell Franzi

After a successful nine-week stint on the Coffs Northern Breakwall over summer, BusBot is now operating in Marian Grove Village at Toormina.

The driverless shuttle, the first in the world to provide an on-demand service in an independent living village, is now in the second phase of its three-phase project.

"This trial is about understanding how automated vehicles can improve transport options in rural and regional communities," Managing Director of Busways, Byron Rowe, said.

"It's about answering questions like - how will they work? What benefits will they provide? What do we need to do to put the infrastructure and technology in to support their operations?

"The on-demand element of Phase 2 will definitely answer some of these questions."

Marian Grove - part of the Sawtell Catholic Care of the Aged organisation - is home for 68 to 98-year-olds, providing a valuable test case to understand the mobility needs of an older community.

"Community participation is essential to some of the lessons we hope to learn in Phase 2 such as how the vehicle meets various mobility needs, how an older community interacts with the technology, and how the community accepts driverless connected technology as a feasible transport option."

The neighbourhood provides a low speed, light traffic, private area to test new functions of the vehicle - such as introducing virtual traffic lights.

BusBot at Marian Grove. Photo Mitchell Franzi

BusBot at Marian Grove. Photo Mitchell Franzi

"Phase 2 has been an extremely exciting phase of the project where we have seen new technology integrations trialled for the first time, and it's happening here in Coffs Harbour," Mr Rowe said.

CEO of Sawtell Catholic Care of the Aged, Michael Darragh, said he believes the automated vehicle has brought happiness to the older generation.

"This is the dawn of a new age in assistive technologies that are now promoting greater mobility, flexibility and independence for the senior sector. In an era where isolation and loneliness are significant risks for many seniors, this safe and effective transport system is helping to keep the community connected and engaged which is great," he said.

The Coffs Harbour Automated Vehicle Trial is a joint venture between the NSW Government's Smart Innovation Centre, local bus operator Busways, Coffs Harbour City Council, vehicle manufacturer EasyMile, and on-demand technology provider Via.

Busbot, the brightly painted driverless shuttle being trialled in Coffs, is a fully electric EasyMile EZ10 vehicle

Busbot, the brightly painted driverless shuttle being trialled in Coffs, is a fully electric EasyMile EZ10 vehicle