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An au­tonomous ve­hi­cle trial in Ade­laide will in­clude smart bus stops that can com­mu­ni­cate with hear­ing-im­paired com­muters, in one in­di­ca­tion of how bus travel will de­velop in the fu­ture. Fabian Cot­ter re­ports.

AN IM­PEND­ING au­tonomous ve­hi­cle trial in Ade­laide, Aus­tralia, this De­cem­ber sets it­self apart from other such ini­tia­tives by in­cor­po­rat­ing an in­ter­ac­tive ‘bus stop’ that can com­mu­ni­cate with hear­ing-im­paired com­muters via move­ment recog­ni­tion.

The sign-lan­guage-ready Matilda ‘smart bus stops’ are the first of such fea­tures to be used in an Aus­tral­asian au­tonomous ve­hi­cle trial, which is to run for six months along the Glenelg fore­shore in Ade­laide.

Yet while much will be made of such a dif­fer­ence be­ing due to their very in­clu­sion, which will see an au­tonomous Olli pod ve­hi­cle com­mute be­tween the two, it is per­haps its abil­ity to use com­puter vi­sion and ges­ture recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy that is the great­est in­di­ca­tor of how fu­ture bus stops world­wide will, and need to, func­tion.

Novem­ber test­ing has seen ex­perts run the ser­vice to map out an ef­fec­tive route along a shared path called the South Es­planade be­tween the Stam­ford Grand fore­court and the Broad­way

Kiosk, which is where the Matil­das (orig­i­nally called Oil­liS­tops) will be placed.

Lo­cal Ade­laide com­pany Sage Au­toma­tion is spear­head­ing the trial in part­ner­ship with the city of Hold­fast Bay, Amer­ica-based Olli man­u­fac­turer Lo­cal Mo­tors – em­ploy­ing some of the lat­est 3D-print­ing tech­niques for mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions – and the South Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment, which is fund­ing it via its Fu­ture Mo­bil­ity Lab Fund.

A spokesper­son ex­plained to ABC mag­a­zine that at this stage the trial is strictly just for the six-month pe­riod with no def­i­nite plans to ex­tend it, nor con­duct ‘Olli tri­als’ else­where.

Ac­cord­ing to the spokesper­son the trial is sim­ply to see how such au­tonomous ve­hi­cles can be made to in­ter­act with the com­mu­nity, given its range of safety as­pects that in­cludes hav­ing a ‘safety op­er­a­tor’ on board.

The Olli pod – which it­self is in­ter­ac­tive us­ing IBM Wat­son tech­nol­ogy (en­ter­prise-ready AI ser­vices, ap­pli­ca­tions and tool­ing) – will be trav­el­ling at what can be de­scribed as a ‘slow walk­ing pace’. Lo­cals can travel on it by book­ing a free trip via one of the Sage Au­toma­tion Matilda stops.

While there will be de­trac­tors of such tech­nol­ogy and crit­ics of th­ese types of tri­als’ ex­pen­di­ture, the in­ter­ac­tiv­ity cer­tainly gives the bus in­dus­try a good in­sight into how such bus stops and pub­lic trans­port lo­ca­tions will, or must, func­tion in fu­ture.

De­signed by Sage Au­toma­ton, it says that Matilda is more than just a shel­ter, it is a tran­sit hub that can source a con­nect­ing tram sched­ule, al­low users to book an Uber, lo­cate the near­est bi­cy­cle hire sta­tion or sched­ule a ride on an au­tonomous shut­tle. Built to be re­lo­cat­able within a few hours, the shel­ter runs on so­lar or bat­tery power and is fully self-con­tained. SAGE says that au­thor­i­ties can trial dif­fer­ent ‘first’ or ‘last mile’ lo­ca­tions, or put ad­di­tional trans­port in place for ma­jor pub­lic events.

“The sign-lan­guage-ready Matilda ‘smart bus stops’ are the first of such fea­tures to be used in an Aus­tral­asian au­tonomous ve­hi­cle trial.”

Top op­po­site and be­low: The new, mo­bile, Matilda smart bus stop.

Above: Hear­ing-im­paired users can sign to find out travel in­for­ma­tion.

Bot­tom op­po­site: The Olli au­to­mated pod ve­hi­cle will trans­port peo­ple along the Glenelg fore­shore in Ade­laide.

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