International technology and transport firms are vying to become part of what’s believed to be a world first, following a thinktank of more than 40 transport and infrastructure experts hosted recently by UTS and Celestino in Sydney with support from Transport for NSW’s Smart Innovation Centre.

Simon Toze from CSIRO speaks to attendees about the importance of taking the community on the journey of transitioning to an autonomous vehicle future.

The thinktank was part of an EOI process to attract partners to Celestino’s Sydney Science Park (SSP) to deliver an Autonomous Vehicle Hub at the 280-hectare Western Sydney future city site.

The hub, considered to be central to the development of the future of the 280-hectare SSP, would provide autonomous vehicle maintenance, cleaning, battery replacement, restocking and last mile services platforms (people, freight and deliveries). It will also be the centre for next generation autonomous technology research, development, testing and commercialisation.

Duncan Challen, General Manager, Business Development, Sydney Science Park described the workshop as the first step in the creation of a “consortium of experts” to guide the hub’s design and development.  He said the first high-tech precinct at SSP could be operational by 2021.

“It’s the first time we’ve been able to join all the dots between property, transport, industry, technology, science and the community to truly consider the autonomous mobility roadmap for Sydney Science Park, and more broadly for other projects.

“We had a number of participants – many of them who would be competitors – talking enthusiastically about the chance to collaborate. They understand that to take this into the every day, and create the systems and infrastructure required there has to be a high degree of cooperation. In fact, no single organisation could achieve what we hope to accomplish here,” he said.

Caity McLoughlin, Associate Director from Optus Business Innovation contributes her thoughts on priority areas of focus to delivering a connected and integrated autonomous city.

Mr Challen said it was expected SSP would provide more than 17,000 in the initial phases, rising to more than 50,000 as the community matured.

Workshop participants included representatives from Navya, YDRIVE, Sage Automation, Bosch, Hyundai, Keolis Downer, CSIRO Data61 and Local Motors, had the opportunity to pitch topics to set the day’s agenda and were asked to identify and nominate possible collaborations.

Believed to be the first time a multidisciplinary group of its kind has come together in Australia to design the future of autonomous transport in a greenfield development, the workshop has already sparked interest from leading multinationals who weren’t in the room but are eager to be involved.

“The response has been extraordinary – even beyond the group in the room. There’s a real excitement on making SSP a world leader in this field,” said Mr Challen. 

Participants discussed topics including communications, connectivity, mixed-use autonomous vehicles (any vehicle that could be used for multiple purposes – i.e. transporting people and/or freight), navigation, planning, design and infrastructure, vehicle platforms, remote operations, shared mobility (shared travel like the Uber concept) and a test track laboratory.

The group also discussed innovative ways to integrate old and new technology and the potential ‘generational change’ required to transition the public mindset towards an autonomous vehicle future.

Don Bone, Industry Associate Professor, UTS said the university was committed to the SSP.  He said not only did the university have the expertise in software engineering, artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and autonomous systems, but as a major technology-focused university, it will also be integral to training the people required to make the project a reality.

The final wrap up - Don Bone UTS Industry Associate Professor with (L-R) Simon Toze - CSIRO, Rafael Toda - Local Motors and Duncan Challen - Sydney Science Park