What’s it like to go for a spin in a driverless car?

Ahead of a program of 60 drivers test driving Australia’s most advanced cooperative and automated car – ZOE2 – during March, the Department of Transport and Main Roads and QUT invited a few people along to see the car in action from the passenger seat. iMOVE Board member Michelle Reynolds was one of the invitees.

The location was the Mount Cotton Driving Centre, located a little south of Brisbane. Michelle and others not only went for a test drive in ZOE2, they also had a sneak peek at the safety study those 60 drivers will undergo later this month.

The study is investigating public participants’ experiences behind the wheel of a cooperative and (highly) automated vehicle (CAV). The goal of the study is to explore participants’ interactions with the vehicle while in automated mode as well as the transition (handover) between manual and automated mode and vice versa.

Those participants are undertaking a 30-minute drive in ZOE2, behind the steering wheel. During the 30 minutes there will be various handovers between fully automated driving, and the participant taking and giving back control of the vehicle.

Mount Cotton Driving Centre map

A map of the various tracks within the Mount Cotton Driving Centre

Each participant is expected to generate 110GB of data, predominantly via the LIDAR on the top and sides of the vehicle, also the vehicle’s front and rear cameras, and the camera inside performing eye-tracking of the drivers.

‘It was an amazing experience to sit in a car that was controlling itself – speed, steering, and braking’, said Michelle.

‘Beside me in the passenger’s seat my expert driver Sebastien provided great insight into the technology used, and how it impacts the performance of the vehicle at this stage.

He also addressed some of the points they are currently investigating in relation to the human element of automated vehicles and how people will take up the technology, how they will react to different methods of implementation, and how they behave in the vehicle while it is running in automated mode.

Interestingly, I still found myself looking at intersections (even knowing we were the only car on the track) and I had to force myself to look around and let the car do the work – I still felt like I had to be the driver.’

Michelle went on to say that it was an exciting glimpse into the future. And that like us, she is looking forward to reading the final report generated by the project.

iMOVE Board members Michelle Reynolds and Neil Singleton with the ZOE2 driverless car

iMOVE Board members Michelle Reynolds and Neil Singleton with the ZOE2 driverless car

Video of ZOE2 in action

Learn more here