South Australia will play host to the first live trials of driverless cars on Australian public roads.

The trials are part of a program initiated by road research agency ARRB Group, and will be conducted with partners including Telstra, Bosch, Volvo, Flinders University, Carnegie Mellon University, the RAA and Cohda Wireless.

The first trial is scheduled to take place on the Southern Expressway on November 7 and 8.

It will involve “multiple vehicles conducting manoeuvres such as overtaking, lane changing, emergency braking and the use of on and off ramps”, according to an SA government statement.

The cars to be used in this first trial are the same as those used in Volvo’s Drive Me project.

Drive Me aims to put 100 self-driving cars into the hands of customers in Sweden’s second-largest city Gothenburg by 2017.

ARRB’s group managing director believed there was some urgency for Australia to begin public road trials with driverless cars.

“Automated vehicles are far from science fiction, but rather a short-term reality that Australia needs to be prepared for,” he said.

His view was backed by Penny Gale, general manager of public affairs at the Royal Automobile Association (RAA) of South Australia.

“By 2020 all cars that come off the production line will have some ability to drive themselves, and we need to prepare,” Gale said.

Cars used in Volvo’s Drive Me program come armed with “multiple radars, cameras and laser sensors” which aim to build a 360° view of the car’s surrounds.

Various cameras are used to monitor lane markings, detect objects in front of the car – including pedestrians or “unexpected road hazards”.

Drive or be driven

Volvo sees both safety and quality-of-life benefits in encouraging the adoption of self-driving cars.

Its senior vice president of research and development Dr Peter Mertens believed such cars would “fundamentally change the way we look at driving”.

“In the future, you will be able to choose between autonomous and active driving,” Dr Mertens said.

“This transforms everyday commuting from lost time to quality time, opening up new opportunities for work and pleasure.”