Queensland is preparing for driverless and connected vehicles, with plans under way for what the state government called the largest on-road testing trial in Australia.
State Main Roads and Road Safety Minister Mark Bailey announced that Ipswich, southeast of Brisbane, would host trials over the next four years on vehicles and infrastructure that can talk to one another, as well as tests on highly automated vehicles.
The trials form part of the Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI), and will see the state government recruit around 500 Ipswich motorists to have their vehicles retrofitted with cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS) technology.
"These C-ITS devices work by providing safety warnings to the driver about a range of conditions -- for example, a pedestrian crossing at a signalised intersection, a red light runner, or a queue ahead that isn't visible to a driver," Bailey explained.
"Our interest in testing these vehicles is to help understand the implications for our infrastructure and drivers, and the improvements to automated vehicle performance when the vehicle can talk to other vehicles and infrastructure."
He said rapidly developing technologies have the potential to significantly reduce crashes and crash-related gridlock, as well as reduce vehicle emissions and fuel use over coming decades.
Beyond the project, the Ipswich test-bed will be available for use by industry, academics, and government, to continue to test new technologies.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads will be working with automotive parts giant Bosch to secure cooperative and highly automated vehicles for testing.
The department is currently moving into the planning phase of the C-ITS pilot, which will have a strong focus on safety, the government said in a statement.
According to Bosch, its "highly automated driving vehicle" will be used in trials and demonstrations across Australia to assist the government and its agencies to prepare for when the cars become commercially available.
"Projects such as these are not just vital for the advancement of road safety and public awareness, but also for the further development of technical expertise and capability of Bosch Australia engineers," Bosch Australia's Mark Jackman said.
The CAVI project is co-funded by the Motor Accident Insurance Commission, and will be delivered with the support of Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety Queensland, in addition to Bosch Australia and Ipswich City Council.
Additional industry partners will be announced as the project moves through a market engagement process, and on-road testing is expected to occur in 2019, the government confirmed.
The trial builds on an initiative Bosch kicked off in October with the Victorian government, in conjunction with the Transport Accident Commission and VicRoads, for the development of the first self-driving vehicle in Australia.
Following a AU$1.2 million investment, the vehicle under construction in Clayton, Victoria, has been designed to navigate roads with or without driver input and includes the ability to detect and avoid hazards such as pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles.
"By removing human error from the equation, self-driving vehicles will play a critical role in reducing deaths and serious injuries on Victorian roads," Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan said at the time.
"This self-driving car is at the forefront of automated vehicle technology, and it's been developed right here in Melbourne by local engineers."
In March, the South Australian government approved on-road trials of driverless cars on the state's roads after the state government and national independent road research agency ARRB Group successfully carried out the country's first driverless car trial on Adelaide's Southern Expressway.
The November trial involved two Volvo XC90 vehicles that demonstrated automatic lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and active queue assist.
Following a test drive in the self-driving Tesla model S car, New South Wales Minister for Industry, Resources, and Energy Anthony Roberts said earlier this year he intended to bring autonomous cars to the state, saying autonomous electric cars are the "future of driving" in NSW.
Australia's first driverless electric shuttle then hit the roads of Perth, Western Australia, in August as part of an initial trial run by the Royal Automobile Club of WA (RAC) in partnership with the state government and vehicle manufacturer Navya.
The shuttle can carry up to 11 passengers and operates at an average speed of 25km per hour.