‘Driving’ a safer future

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Ernest Litera behind the wheel of an automated Volvo S90.
Ernest Litera behind the wheel of an automated Volvo S90.

RACV drivers and engineers are test ‘driving’ automated vehicles on Melbourne freeways this week, as part of a trial to help prepare Victorians and our roads for a future with driverless cars.

RACV’s vehicles program leader Ernest Litera will be in the driver’s seat of automated cars on the Monash-Citylink-Tullamarine corridor. But he won’t have his hands in his lap. To meet national testing guidelines, he must have at least one hand on the wheel at all times.

RACV engineer Nick Platt is acting as an observer to monitor how features such as lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and traffic-sign recognition respond and interact with road infrastructure including tunnels, road works, congestion, electronic speed signs and line markings.

The trials will use vehicles with automated features that are already on the market, including a Volvo S90, Model S and Model X Teslas, a BMW 540i and Mercedes E300.

Conducted by the Victorian Government and Transurban, with support from RACV, the trials will run over the next few months to test vehicles with partial automation in various conditions.

Ernest with the Volvo S90, Mercedes E300 and BMW 540i taking part in the trials.
Ernest with the Volvo S90, Mercedes E300 and BMW 540i taking part in the trials.

The human error factor

With human error contributing to more than 90 per cent of crashes, automated vehicles have enormous potential to reduce the road toll, and to help those with limited mobility travel more easily.

And with the auto industry predicting we are just five to 10 years away from automated vehicles being on the market, Victoria’s road infrastructure must be ready.  

The trial findings will help the government and Transurban understand how to prepare road infrastructure, regulations and the community for driverless cars. The program will also look at community attitudes to automated driving and how it can be implemented, including whether motorways should have designated lanes for automated vehicles.

'At the forefront of technology'

RACV general manager public policy, Brian Negus, says RACV is proud to be a partner in the trial, “and at the forefront of the technology revolution”.

“RACV is involved in these trials to get a clear understanding of the potential safety improvements offered by automated vehicles; how the technology works and what the implications are for the community in interacting with connected and automated technology.

“With over 2.1 million members, RACV is best placed to help our members and the broader community understand how the safety and mobility benefits of connected and automated vehicle technology can improve their liveability.”

Phase one of the trial will be complete later this year. The whole Victorian trial program will take two years and consists of three phases.

Written by RACV
August 09, 2017