Residents of a retirement community in Australia don’t need to wait at a bus stop for a ride to come. They can just summon one on their phone.

A trial of autonomous shuttles in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, is allowing seniors to order a bus using an app. It can accommodate multiple passengers and has no set route. Instead, it uses artificial intelligence to determine its most efficient path based on real-time pick-up and drop-off requests.

The free BusBot service is part of a year-long pilot designed to assess the benefits of autonomous transport, as well as helping to improve quality of life and mobility for the area’s ageing population.

The trial - currently serving the Marian Grove Retirement Village in Toormina - is a first for regional Australia and will incorporate smart traffic lights, on-demand operation, roundabout navigation and mixed traffic operations. The next phase will run in the central business district of Coffs Harbour.

The BusBot autonomous shuttle in Coffs Harbour, Australia, is mobilizing retirement community residents.

Autonomy around the world

Similar vehicles have already been rolled out on a university campus in Singapore and as a school bus substitute in the Florida town of Babcock Ranch. They have even appeared on the streets of San Ramon, California.

The use of self-driving cars and buses is part of the growing demand for Mobility as a Service, which uses AI to enable ride-sharing and transport on demand.

The Mobility as a Service market is growing exponentially.
Image: Statista

According to BIS Research, the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) market is set to grow around 56 times between 2018-2028, reaching a global value of $1.76 trillion.

In 2010, transport accounted for 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions - something that MaaS could help reduce, along with traffic jams. It’s already used in Helsinki, where a single app gives users access to public transport, city bikes, taxis, and rental cars.

By using manmade resources on the road only as we need them, we’re helping to look after our natural resources, too.