Main picture

Transforming connections for regional communities

EasyMile, in partnership with Transport for New South Wales, Busways, and on-demand platform VIA, deliver first-last mile mobility solutions for residents and visitors of Coffs Harbour

The BusBot project, with its last phase in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, an area surrounded by national parks, reserves and marine parks, is a blueprint for new mobility.

Since December 2018, more than 10,000 people have used EasyMile’s driverless shuttle as part of a project to provide intelligent transport to regional communities. The extensive trial has tested the technology in several different environments, and also helped local communities to be a vital part of the journey.

New mobility for residents and tourists

EasyMile, in conjunction with Transport for NSW, Busways, Coffs Harbour City Council and ride-sharing app provider Via, has carried out the project in three phases:

  • Phase 1 took residents and tourists along the Northern Breakwall at the Coffs Harbour Marina to Muttonbird Island, a nature reserve and area of Aboriginal cultural significance. The service took passengers along a path shared with pedestrians and cyclists, making 30 trips a day.
  • Phase 2 served the Marian Grove Retirement Village, a community of more than 200 homes. The on-demand service was available for the residents (aged between 68 and 98), who could request shuttle services using the BusBot app. This phase tested how an older community interact with the technology and accepted the service as a feasible transport option, as well as how the shuttles can meet different mobility needs. 
  • Phase 3 operated in the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, a large site where the public can tour features including rare and endangered plants, a sensory garden and an area of national forest. The service ran fully driverless (without any human supervisor onboard) at Level 4 and proved the technology’s ability to operate in a closed but public environment. Among the features was the use of ground-based localization (road markings) as a way to provide a robust GPS signal for the vehicle.

The benefits of Level 4 autonomy

One of the key parts of the BusBot project is its transition to Level 4 autonomy (driverless in a known environment with no human attendant required on board). 

Level 4 autonomy gives operators more flexibility, meaning they can add or take away vehicles at any time, or change the route quickly and efficiently, it also makes services more scalable, as a single operator can supervise one or more vehicles from anywhere.

Over the course of the three phases, the shuttle moved from having an on-board supervisor to remove supervision. 

World firsts and positive feedback

Moving to a fully autonomous, remotely monitored vehicle is a significant milestone. BusBot is the world’s first trial of a driverless automated shuttle bus.
The three-phase project is also the first occasion trials have been held in Australia for several other areas of autonomous innovation. For example, integrating new technology between vehicle and infrastructure; testing on-demand technology; and BusBot was the first ever trial of its kind   showcasing driverless shuttles in a retirement village.
Feedback for the project has been very positive. The service has been praised for providing a more sustainable form of transport, as well as helping to promote independence for communities. Each individual phase has had strict safety milestones which had to be met before the trial could progress to the next stage.

The BusBot project marks several Australian, industry and world firsts.