Driverless trucks trial postponed after outrage from TWU

A trial of driverless trucks in Melbourne expected to begin last night has been postponed following outrage from the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

Announced only yesterday, the six-month trial headed by Transurban has been criticised for a lack of public consultation and the potential of leaving freight routes in chaos.

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The TWU issued an emergency message to its members yesterday afternoon announcing “the proposed driverless trucks trial tonight on the Monash Freeway has been cancelled”.

“Sneaky tactics, and lacking any community input, Transurban maliciously chose to squeeze this trial through in bad faith.”

TWU branch secretary Mem Suleman says Transurban hasn’t considered the safety of these trials, or the impact on the future of transport jobs.

“Driverless trucks get tested in deserts in Las Vegas not on the Monash Freeway,” Suleman says.

“Our freeways and roads are an important source of ensuring transportation is moved safely by professional drivers.

“We are a long way away from this type of untested technology and it doesn’t belong in Victoria particularly when they haven’t got it right in other parts of the world.”

It is unknown as of yet if or when the trial will resume.

The trial was set to come after a successful run in 2022 which saw driverless trucks travel from the city to Warrigal Road and back.

The new program was prepped to see two Iveco S-Way AS550 trucks driving from the Port of Melbourne to Dandenong, before turning around.

For optimised safety and results, the trucks were set to travel at night between 10pm and 5am in a designated lane to avoid heavy traffic, with each carrying a supervising driver and engineer on board at all times.

Fitted with sensors and cameras, the trucks are driven by Level 4 autonomous driving technology from software firm Plus.

Level 4 autonomy means the vehicle’s automated driving system are in total control – navigating motorway entries, changing lanes, driving inside tunnels, observing traffic lights and responding to any traffic condition they’re presented with along the way.

Speaking on the 3AW radio station yesterday, Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson says the public should expect to embrace the technology in years to come.

“It’s closer than you think,” Anderson says. “There’s a lot of work going on around it.

“We are leading the way in Melbourne in trialling and making sure that this technology works.”

Anderson says the trial is also about building “social licence”.

“That’s the biggest element in the way. The technology is there and it’s not necessarily going to take jobs away in the first instance.

“It’s just where we’ll put it, where it’s safest, and where we think the community will accept it. It’s the community who will determine how quickly this technology is taken up.”

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