South Australia invests AU$5.6m in autonomous technology

airport interior
  • Electric, driverless shuttles to be trialled at Adelaide Airport
  • Other projects include autonomous cargo trials in innovation district and driverless shuttles at Flinders University

The South Australia Government has announced the details of AU$5.6 million of autonomous technology investments as it funds trials of driverless shuttles and cargo pods.

One of its flagship projects will see Adelaide Airport embark on a trial of three electric driverless shuttles between its terminal and long-term car park. 

We are the place to do business when it comes to autonomous vehicle technology
— Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan

The airport trial is one of seven projects to share funding from the state’s Future Mobility Lab Fund, which is aimed at boosting the local testing, research and development of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said: “As a Government we have been focused on fostering the development of an autonomous technology industry in South Australia to claim a share of an industry predicted to be worth $90 billion globally by 2030.

“Our Australian-first driverless car trials, our Australian-first law changes to allow for on-road trials and our international Driverless Car Conference sent a message that we are the place to do business when it comes to autonomous vehicle technology.”

Mark Young, Managing Director of Adelaide Airport, said: “A small fleet of autonomous electric vehicles would replace our current diesel powered shuttle buses, servicing our long-term and staff car parks.”

If the trial is successful, the driverless passenger shuttles will become a permanent feature at the airport. 



Other projects supported by the fund include one to test autonomous cargo pods at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct and another to trial driverless shuttles at Flinders University.

Driverless car supplier RDM Group will receive AU$1 million in funding towards its driverless cargo pod trial. It is aiming to develop a market-ready autonomous delivery pod within a year.

“When we looked at taking our driverless vehicle technology to other countries in the world, we recognised early on the appetite of South Australia to be at the forefront of developments in this field,” said David Keene, RDM Group Chairman.

“The funding announcement today will accelerate one of these exciting ventures and we are looking forward to working with the Tonsley Innovation Precinct to deliver one of the world’s first driverless cargo pods.”

The driverless shuttle project at Flinders University will see the vehicle transport students around the university’s Tonsley campus. 

Future plans will see the trial – a collaboration with the RAA (the state’s Royal Automobile Association) – extended to the university’s Bedford Park campus and local transport hubs.

“As a leader in the area of autonomous systems, Flinders University is the perfect testing ground for these transformational technologies,” said the university's Vice Chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling.

Trialling a self-driving vehicle in real-world conditions will allow us to test and see how to integrate this new technology as a first and last mile solution to Adelaide’s public transport systems.
— RAA Senior Manager Future Mobility Mark Borlace

“The trial will include the development of a mobile app that will allow people arriving by bus or train to arrange for a shuttle to meet them and deliver them quickly and conveniently to their final destination on campus.

“As the trial advances, we’ll open it up to members of the public to be able to experience driverless transport.”

RAA Senior Manager Future Mobility Mark Borlace said: “Trialling a self-driving vehicle in real-world conditions will allow us to test and see how to integrate this new technology as a first and last mile solution to Adelaide’s public transport systems.”

Australia and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative Centre of Excellence Executive Director Rita Excell welcomed the funding announcement.

“This grant funding is a positive investment which allows these ADVI program partners to advance testing, research and development of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies to determine which technology options best fit Australian conditions and needs,” said Excell.

The Future Mobility Lab Fund generated “overwhelming interest”, according to Mullighan, with applications received for more than twice the value of the fund. 

South Australia signalled its support for driverless vehicle initiatives in October, when the state announced plans to invest AU$10 million into the testing, research and development of connected and autonomous car technology.