The University of Newcastle, Newcastle City Council, Newcastle Now and Hunter Digit has together gained the support of the NSW Labor Party to bring the billion dollar driverless car industry to Newcastle.
An expression of interest was lodged with the Smart Innovation Centre to establish the new Agile Urban Transport Open Network (AUTON).
According to The Herald, driverless car advocate Garry Ellem is the program manager for future industries at the University of Newcastle's Tom Farrell Institute, and one of the key players behind the push. Dr Ellem says that AUTON's aim is to make it easier for people to invest in the industry, using Newcastle as a "test bed."
Newcastle has been called "ideal" for the testing because the area isn't too big — meaning any issues wouldn't cause major problems like they could in a major city, but it's big enough to get useful results from the tests. Potential plans include a driverless shuttle bus on the university campus, and freeways like the M1.
Opposition leader Luke Foley also spoke in support of the plan, stating in his budget speech last week that the Hunter region is "perfectly placed" to become the "centre of expertise" leading the way for the autonomous car industry, tipped to be worth almost $90 billion globally by 2030. Foley said a Labor government would facilitate testing the vehicles on designated public roads.
Premier Mike Baird has also supported the plan, stating the government is happy to work with Labor to bring this plan to reality.