The Australian road freight landscape took some big steps into new territory with a recent trial of automated trucks. This trial is notable because it was the first time a highly automated truck, designed to drive with no driver input, was road-tested in live-traffic conditions on public motorways. This historic event took place in Melbourne over seven nights in November and December 2022, with the truck restricted to a dedicated lane and travelling over 370km.

Led by Transurban, this trial was the first time they had tested the benefits of sharing data from roadside technologies such as road sensors and speed-limit signage with a truck’s automated driving system. Another key purpose was to explore the potential for infrastructure-to-vehicle (12V) data to support the truck’s Automated Driving System (ADS). 

Safety drivers were aboard the automated truck throughout the trial. These drivers supervised the truck’s automated operations, such as monitoring the truck’s lane positioning and speed-limit compliance, and taking back control of the vehicle in line with defined safety protocols.

The trial found that 12V communications were feasible and can potentially be highly beneficial in deploying automated trucks on highly instrumented, managed motorways in Australia. There were no safety incidents while the ADS successfully manoeuvred several tasks, including:

  • travelling in a dedicated lane alongside live traffic on a public motorway
  • navigating the full extent of both the Domain and Burnley tunnels
  • performing lane changes in mixed traffic conditions, including multiple instances where the automated truck waited for other road users to pass before merging.

So, what does this mean for the Australian road freight industry? Are human drivers on the road to being replaced by ADS? The short answer is no. The trial report stated that roadways have enough freight demand to attract automated truck operators. It is also clear that at this point, the safety drivers were essential during the trial. Of more than 370km travelled in ADS mode, 92 per cent of travel was completed in automated mode, and only on highly managed roads with certain road-surface conditions. Click here to obtain a full copy of the Transurban trial report.

Overall, the potential of using this technology on Australian roads has been established. The initial report provides encouraging results and supports further trials and research to explore the safe introduction of automated trucks to the freight industry.

“Automated trucks can contribute to more efficient handling of the growing freight task in our cities. We will use our findings in exploring, with government and industry, possible approaches for safely introducing automated trucks onto our roads,” the Transurban report concludes.

To explore how you can take advantage of the latest transport management technology to streamline your road freight operations and future-proof your bottom line, check out GoDesta or get in touch with our team.

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