A CUTTING edge wireless technology company is helping to put South Australia at the forefront of the driverless car industry.
When the International Driverless Cars Conference rolled in to Adelaide, South Australia at the beginning of November, more than 300 local and international delegates witnessed Australia's first on-road driverless car trial using Cohda Wireless technology.
Cohda, based in the capital city of Adelaide, makes sensors for connected cars and driverless cars.
It manufactures systems with acknowledged best-in-world performance - its hardware and software products are being used in more than 60 per cent of all V2X field trials worldwide.
Customers include carmakers, automotive chipmakers and road authorities from the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, China, and Korea.
Cohda Wireless chief executive Dr Paul Gray said he expected the next generation of driverless cars to be common on the road by 2020 with fully driverless cars possible by about 2025.
The company has won a contract with General Motors to have its V2X technology installed in the first production cars, a Cadillac model, from late next year.
South Australia has a long history of car manufacturing. General Motors has manufactured Holden vehicles in South Australia since the 1920s but will cease production in Australia in 2017 while Chrysler, then Mitsubishi, built cars in Adelaide from 1963 -2008.
Dr Gray said Adelaide was well placed to become a global hub for driverless car research.
“We have a lot of defence and aerospace companies based here in Adelaide with good engineers available for us to use and we also have a continuing relationship with the University of South Australia,” he said.
“There’s still a strong automotive industry here, even though GM is shutting down. We have a lot of tier one and tier two automotive companies in South Australia as well as expertise here. Combine that with government legislation to allow driverless car testing creates the potential for Adelaide to become the hub for driverless car research in the world.
“There’s not many places where you can test driverless cars on public roads.
“Carnegie Mellon University, who have a campus here in Adelaide, do a lot of driverless car research at their main campus in Pittsburgh in the US, so there’s now that link too.”
Cohda Wireless was formed in 2004 by research scientists from the University of South Australia.
“We were set up specifically to commercialise the technology so in the early days Cohda had a demonstrably superior product and that got us initial attention. But now we really have the most mature solution on the market today,” Dr Gray said.
“We’re also kind of unique in that the standards for this technology are slightly different in the US and Europe. We are the only company in the world who is actually selling our products into both these markets.
Cohda this month launched its V2X Radar, which Dr Gray said had the opportunity to further revolutionise the industry.
“V2X Radar can now detect things that are around a corner or over the crest of a hill and really extend the horizon for what a vehicle can sense beyond what a human driver can see,” he said.
“The great news for us is that GM was the first company in the world to say they are going to put these radars into a production vehicle, awarding the contract to Cohda.
“We can now leverage that to win further contracts and get our new V2X Radar product into trials and tests with other carmakers.”
Cohda also provides technologies on the infrastructure side so the V2X vehicles can not only communicate with other vehicles but also with infrastructure such as traffic lights.
South Australian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said the State Government had helped provide the conditions to put Adelaide on the map in the driverless car industry, which was expected to be worth $90 billion annually within 15 years.
“South Australia is taking the lead nationally and internationally, our strengths in innovation and a welcoming regulatory environment combine to make South Australia an attractive destination for global firms to test, develop and trial their technology,” he said.