Dubbo is getting a ridesharing service similar to Uber but it won’t have a driver or charge passengers.
In eight months the world’s first autonomous ute will begin collecting data on the erratic movement of kangaroos, while operating as an on-demand transport service.
It will move between Dubbo City Regional Airport, Dubbo’s central business district and Taronga Western Plains Zoo during daylight.
Booking a ride will be possible through a free app to be developed by Newcastle-based Liftango, a rideshare and demand-responsive transport technology company.
Passengers will be able to download the app onto their mobile phones or use it at fixed-tablet stations at the three locations.
They will be able to get an accurate estimated time of arrival and track the ute in real time.
The app also allows passengers to provide feedback on their journey.
Liftango co-founder Trystan Eeles was in Dubbo for NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey’s announcement of the 12-month trial of the driverless ute from late 2019.
Current driverless technology is unable to react to the unpredictability of kangaroos which cause about 16,000 crashes a year.
The ute will collect data that may save both windscreens and lives.
The ridesharing component of the trial will be managed by Liftango which provides technological solutions to clients to “reduce environmental and social impacts of congestion caused by low-occupancy vehicles”.
“Liftango will create the app, take the trip bookings and.. send them to the vehicle command interface, equipment that sits on top of the ute,” Mr Eeles said.
Liftango will encourage passengers to share their thoughts on the service through the app which will have “local branding”.
Mr Eeles said a free service “means you end up with greater patronage, you get more feedback and you learn more”.
Mr Eeles concedes that acceptance by the community of the driverless ute will be a “process”.
He argues that shared autonomous transport is the “perfect solution” for reducing the number of vehicles on roads.
“Eventually, we will get to the point where the public will accept the fact that vehicles drive without someone in the front,” Mr Eeles said.
He understands that during the course of the trial a “steward” will occupy the driver’s seat of the ute which may carry another four passengers depending on the type selected for retrofitting with automation technology.
The app will accept bookings for people with disabilities if the vehicle has capacity to carry them.
Liftango is currently in talks “with some community transport organisations in the area”.