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On the road to driverless cars

Innovation & Research Connectedness Independence Residential
  • IRT and UK-based technology firm Aurrigo trialling driverless care facility
  • Will test how driverless cars can improve residents’ independence and quality of life
  • Pod Zero unveiled at the Information Technology in Age Care conference on the Gold Coast
  • Vehicle will be programmed to safely navigate private roads within IRT Kangara Waters

A driverless car trial will soon get underway at IRT’s aged care facility in Belconnen.

“Currently, we rely on family and volunteers to help support our staff with transport but a driverless car future would allow residents to stay independent and connected to their Community without relying on a third party to get them there.”
Yasoda Poudel
IRT Kangara Waters Care Centre Manager

Imagine a time when a retirement village resident can open an app on their smartphone, hail a driverless car and be taken to appointments or social activities within their village.

It might sound like years away but a trial of such technology will soon get under way at IRT Kangara Waters.

IRT has partnered with UK-based technology firm Aurrigo to trial its Pod Zero at the Belconnen Community.

The Pod Zero was unveiled at the Information Technology in Age Care conference on the Gold Coast in November, where it attracted plenty of attention.

The IRT Kangara Waters trial will start within the next few months but residents got a sneak preview when the vehicle visited the Community for a test drive in January.

IRT Group Head of IT and Business Excellence John Vohradsky says driverless cars could offer many benefits to older people.

He says seniors with limited mobility can lose their independence and risk becoming socially isolated.

“IRT is eager to understand how driverless cars can improve residents’ independence and quality of life,” he says.

IRT Kangara Waters Care Centre Manager Yasoda Poudel agrees.

“We have many residents who are still mentally capable but have to give up driving because of physical limitations.

“Currently, we rely on family and volunteers to help support our staff with transport but a driverless car future would allow residents to stay independent and connected to their Community without relying on a third party to get them there.”

Under the trial, the Pod Zero will be programmed to safely navigate private roads within IRT Kangara Waters.

Aurrigo will map every part of the trial roads, marking out the boundaries of where the Pod Zero can and cannot travel.

The vehicle also has multiple sensors, which alert it to any changes in its immediate environment.

If it detects someone crossing in front of the vehicle, or an obstacle on the road, it will readjust its path and speed accordingly.

John is excited IRT is part of the trial. He says the driverless car movement is gaining momentum nationwide, with limited trials of driverless vehicles becoming more common.

“It’s not a matter of if but when the technology becomes widely used,” he says.

“We want to ensure older Australians aren’t left behind. In fact, we want them to be first in line to benefit from this exciting technology.”

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