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A mini driverless bus covered in a yellow-orange-red-purple skin parked on the side of a road in the daytime.

FLEX will initially provide ‘first and last mile’ shuttle services via roads on the Tonsley site, then connections to bus stops on South Road, at Clovelly Park railway station and Tonsley’s businesses. Within a year the shuttle is expected to provide services to the Flinders Medical Centre and the university’s Bedford Park campus before using main arterial roads around the entire Bedford Park precinct.

Flinders University, the RAA and Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure have partnered with industry supporters Renewal SA, SAGE Automation, ZenEnergy, Cohda Wireless, Telstra, UPG and public transport operator Keolis Downer on the three-stage, $4 million driverless shuttle project, and received $1 million from the state government’s $10 million Future Mobility Lab Fund.

Flinders University’s Head of Civil Engineering, Professor Rocco Zito, said, “This research project is a perfect example of how universities, government and industry can collaborate to provide enhanced mobility services that can really make a difference to people’s lives.”

In one of Australia’s leading driverless projects, the vehicle will be docked within a six bay solar recharge garage to be constructed within two months near the Mitsubishi Administration building. The solar garage will also be available to the public wanting to recharge their own electric vehicles for free.

Minister for Transport, the Hon. Stephan Knoll, will attend the official launch today and be one of the first people to have a ride on FLEX.

“Demonstrations and trials of these driverless vehicles that involve the community are a really good way of building acceptance of this type of new technology,” Professor Zito says.

“Our aim is not to prove the technology but rather expose the public to this new type of transport service and learn from their responses and reactions to help driverless vehicles gain general acceptance.”

The French-designed Navya Arma electric shuttle can carry up to 15 passengers at speeds of up to 40 km per hour, but will travel up to 30 km per hour during the trial. FLEX will be managed by an on-board chaperone informing users of the technology and ensuring safety.

A mobile app will allow commuters arriving by traditional bus or train to book the driverless shuttle to take them to any destination within the innovation district.

Members of the public can book a ride from tomorrow, with online bookings available via the Flinders University website in the near future.

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