A couple of weeks ago, Melbourne’s EastLink tunnels were closed for “scheduled maintenance”. But maintenance is not all that happened in the tunnels that night.
The very first demonstration of hands-free driving through freeway tunnels was held, using the lane keep assist function of a Honda Civic VTi-LX.
What makes this a big deal? Well, you’re not allowed to use hands-free driving on Victorian roads right now. You have to have at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times. So the whole idea of this demonstration was to educate drivers of “driver assistance” functions common in more modern cars.
“The demonstration resulted from the Annual Victorian Self-Driving Vehicle Survey conducted recently by EastLink, in which more than half of the 15,000 respondents rated their awareness of self-driving cars as ‘very little’ or ‘none’,” said EastLink corporate affairs and marketing manager, Doug Spencer-Roy.
“With driver assistance functions such as lane keep assist expected to improve road safety significantly, we hope that the demonstration encourages motorists to consider the availability of these new vehicle capabilities when choosing their next car,” he added.
Spencer-Roy said the Civic steered itself, using the lane keep assist mode, along EastLink and through the EastLink tunnels at speeds up to 80km/h – while the driver was not holding the steering wheel.
“The Honda Civic lane keep assist function was not affected by changing light conditions during the demonstration, such as the transitions into and out of each tunnel portal,” Spencer-Roy confirmed.
But if drivers aren’t actually allowed to use the function – what was the point of this exercise? It seems Spencer-Roy might be holding out for a law change.
“The demonstration showed that driver assistance functions in cars are rapidly increasing in quality and availability, which is paving the way for motorists to experience hands-free driving on freeways in the coming years (subject to legislative changes).”
Either that, or this was just a fancy ploy to get publicity. Mission accomplished, I suppose?