An international driverless car firm is set to launch its Asia-Pacific headquarters in South Australia.
UK-based business RDM Group, the company behind the LUTZ Pathfinder and Pod Zero vehicles, will establish an office in Adelaide, South Australia, adding to the city’s reputation as a hub for driverless car technology.
The office, which will be situated in the Tonsley Innovation Hub, will be responsible for purchasing, sales and technology support with plans to develop an assembly facility there.
RDM Group CEO David Keene said the new Asia-Pacific headquarters was the first building block of the company’s expansion into the region.
“There is massive demand for creating autonomous mobility solutions in Australia and we want to make sure our technology is at the forefront of any new developments,” he said.
“With this in mind, we feel the opportunity deserves a local presence and we are delighted to have taken a technical office at Flinders University, within the world class Tonsley Innovation District.
“This will give us the base to develop an Australian supply chain and to explore new opportunities, with the longer-term plan to create a bespoke assembly facility in Adelaide that will supply vehicles direct to customers across the Asia-Pacific region.”
The company’s premier vehicle, the Pod Zero, was showcased at least year’s World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in Melbourne.
It uses a combination of six cameras, three lidars and two radars to navigate its way through city streets.
The pods are customisable and range from two-seater to eight-seater models, which are also designed to accommodate passengers with disabilities.
They are powered using batteries that last up to six-hours on a single charge and are capable of travelling almost 100km, with a maximum speed of about 24km/h.
The low speed means they are suitable to operate on pathways and sidewalks, making them ideally suited for airports, shopping centres and theme parks.
They are hailed using a mobile phone, which allows passengers to type in their destination and then displayed on an iPad installed on the dashboard.
Adelaide has a history of involvement with innovative autonomous car research and in 2015 held the first driverless car trials in the Southern Hemisphere.
Global leader in V2X (Vehicle to everything) technology, Cohda Wireless, is also based in Adelaide and were key members of the trials.
The announcement of the RDM branch in Adelaide coincides with the opening of the South Australian Government’s $10 million Future Mobility Lab Fund, to boost local testing, research and development of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.
More than 40 applications, worth more than $20 million, were received for a share of the fund. They will be now assessed before the successful initiatives are announced.
South Australian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said the Future Mobility Lab Fund and the RDM Group announcement demonstrated that the state was in a unique position to leverage the potential of the burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry.
“Since our landmark driverless car trials and demonstrations just over a year ago, the State Government has led the nation in creating a legislative framework to support autonomous vehicle technology,” he said.
“RDM’s decision to open its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Adelaide is a resounding show of support for the South Australian Government efforts to stimulate this growing industry which is expected to be worth $90 billion worldwide by 2020.”
The Tonsley Innovation Hub is home to Advanced Manufacturers including medical technologies company Micro-X and is bookended by the Flinders University at Tonsley building and community college TAFE SA.
Other major tenants in the hub include Siemens, ZEN Energy and the South Australian Drill Core Library.
The innovation hub has been specifically designed to enable businesses, industries and companies to collaborate with researchers and tertiary students.
It will also be included in the South Australian Governments GigCity project to include Gigabit internet speeds for key industry precincts.