Australia has potential to be leader in self-driving software
Already a leader in developing alternative forms of transport, Australia is also well-poised to join the A-list in self-driving software, as an app start-up moves its focus to flying cars.
Anushka Bandara, chief executive of Elegant Media, believes his is the first homegrown company to be active in this sphere, as its partnership with Macchina Volantis gains steam. It is one of several autonomous driving projects being developed here.
The two Melbourne companies have been working on a vertical take-off and landing vehicle that will allow commuters to drive to the airport and fly away in the same compact, garage-worthy vehicle. A first working prototype of the road-drivable 5-seat electric aircraft is expected later this year.
On the road, the Macchina Volantis will be powered by a 70kW engine with its top speed limited to 60km/h.
Twelve motors should be sufficient to lift the 1,650kg vehicle vertically and achieve an airspeed of 150 knots. The aircraft will carry a ballistic parachute for emergency landings.
“So far things are going good,” Bandara, whose company is handling the integration of Macchina Volantis’s flight control and navigation systems, told Drive.com.au network. “There have been no real challenges, apart from the regulators.”
With laws governing autonomous vehicles not yet implemented in Australia, it is difficult for start-ups in this field to predict for sure what will be covered when a new national law, due by 2020, is passed.
Even though self-driving vehicles aren’t yet regulated, driverless vehicles are still being seen tested on Australian roads, backed by state government initiatives.
“It’s frustrating waiting for regulators to catch up with technology that hadn’t even been considered in the past. So we need to put more pressure on governments to regulate this quickly, safely and appropriately,” said Bandara.
Though the tech CEO doesn’t see the move from mobile phone apps into self-driving cars as a vast leap, neither does he think it is a natural progression for most software companies—it depends on their focus.
“We are an innovative company, so our focus is less on maximising profitability for customers; we are more interested in developing innovations for them.
“As far as I know, we are the only Australian software firm doing this. There could be a bright future for companies doing this here,” he said.