From the Jetsons to reality

3 min
20 March 2023

In an Australian first, Stockland has partnered with a team from the University of WA who have developed hardware and software to control an autonomous bus, and now residents and visitors of Stockland’s Amberton Beach community are among the first to ride it on public roads.  

The electric UWA shuttle bus, nUWAy, can carry up to eight passengers – free of charge – along a designated route through the WA coastal community to Amberton Beach.

City of Wanneroo Mayor Linda Aitken took a ride on the shuttle as part of a news segment for local Perth TV and said the experience remined her of the famous “Jetsons” cartoon of a family living in a science fiction future.

“We’re beginning our own Jetsons here and this is the groundbreaking start of it,” she said.  

“As technology and innovation advances, it’s important that our community can experience the benefits, especially when the technology exists on our roads.”   

With Stockland’s support, the UWA team has been operating two of the vehicles on campus for the last two years, but the Amberton trial is the first time the bus has graduated to public roads. 

UWA’s Professor Thomas Braunl, from the School of Engineering, welcomed Stockland’s backing for the project and said it was an exciting time to be involved in autonomous driving. 

“This is the biggest engineering challenge of our time,” Professor Braunl said. 

Located 48 kilometres north of Perth’s CBD in the suburb of Eglinton, Amberton is a masterplanned community with principles of sustainability at its core. The coastal community offers direct access, beachside dining, bars and cafes and a seaside community and foreshore precinct. 

The nUWAy shuttle is designed as a three-year pilot project, enabling the UWA team to consolidate data and research and further advance driverless technology on public roads. 

UWA students were on board for an initial testing phase to fine tune the shuttle service and its GPS and Artificial Intelligence technology, but it is now entirely driverless, and the speed is set to double from 20km/h as the service proves itself. 

The bus is equipped with sensor systems to guide navigation and prevent collisions, including eight Lidars (a remote sensing method that uses lasers), two cameras, a GPS and an inertial measurement system.

An independent hardware system monitors the vehicle’s movements and automatically stops the bus if an object or person comes too close. 

“It has unique characteristics in that while most commercial autonomous shuttles can only follow a fixed pre-programmed path and can’t deviate, nUWAy is able to drive around obstacles, where it is safe to do so,” Professor Bräunl said. 

Stockland General Manager – WA Communities, Col Dutton, said the project would be a great addition to the Amberton community as well as showcasing UWA innovation and advancing driverless transport research.  

Further information

Learn more about Stockland Amberton Beach here.