News & Media

First demonstration of hands-free driving through freeway tunnels

When Melbourne’s EastLink tunnels were closed for scheduled maintenance overnight Saturday 18 November, EastLink conducted the first demonstration of hands-free driving through freeway tunnels, using the lane keep assist function of a Honda Civic VTi-LX.

The demonstration was broadcast in a television news report by 7 News on Monday 4 December. (Watch the report here.)

Hands free driving tunnel 600w

Hands-free driving is currently not allowed on Victorian roads. Motorists should always drive with at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times. The demonstration was able to include hands-free driving using lane keep assist as it was conducted through the EastLink tunnels when closed to traffic in preparation for scheduled tunnel maintenance activities, and under controlled conditions.

The demonstration was planned to help Victorian motorists gain a better understanding of lane keep assist and other driver assistance functions.

EastLink corporate affairs and marketing manager Doug Spencer-Roy explained, “The demonstration resulted from the Annual Victorian Self-Driving Vehicle Survey conducted recently by EastLink, in which more than half of the 15,000 respondents rated their awareness of self-driving cars as ‘very little’ or ‘none’.” (The survey results are here.)

“EastLink wants to help motorists gain a better understanding of the latest driver assistance functions, and how they will evolve to make self-driving cars possible in the future.”

“With driver assistance functions such as lane keep assist expected to improve road safety significantly, we hope that the demonstration encourages motorists to consider the availability of these new vehicle capabilities when choosing their next car,” he added.

In EastLink’s Annual Victorian Self-Driving Vehicle Survey, only 4% of survey respondents said their car has a lane keep assist function. However, lane keep assist and other driver assistance functions are increasingly available in the latest cars, and at much lower prices than previously.

EastLink selected the Honda Civic VTi-LX for the demonstration following its participation in the trials of the latest automated vehicle technologies that have been undertaken this year by EastLink in partnership with VicRoads, the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), La Trobe University and RACV. (Detailed article about the EastLink trials is here.)

The new Honda Civic VTi-LX, which is available for less than $40,000, includes the Honda Sensing package as standard. The Honda Civic is representative of a new generation of affordable vehicles equipped with an advanced safety technology suite. Honda Sensing comprises a range of driver assistance functions such as lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation. (Find out more about Honda Sensing here.)

Doug Spencer-Roy described the demonstration, “The Honda Civic steered itself using lane keep assist mode along EastLink and through the EastLink tunnels at speeds up to 80km/h, while the driver was not holding the steering wheel.”

“The Honda Civic lane keep assist function was not affected by changing light conditions during the demonstration, such as the transitions into and out of each tunnel portal.”

“The demonstration showed that driver assistance functions in cars are rapidly increasing in quality and availability, which is paving the way for motorists to experience hands-free driving on freeways in the coming years (subject to legislative changes),” he concluded.

An EastLink incident response vehicle completes a safety sweep following the road closure, prior to the demonstration starting:

Honda Civic and EastLink safety sweep vehicle 600w

The EastLink tunnels are closed and the Honda Civic is ready to the start the demonstration:

Honda Civic on EastLink ready to go 3 600w

The Honda Civic about to start a hands-free run through an EastLink tunnel:

Honda Civic ready for another tunnel run 600w

7 News senior reporter Dean Felton prepares for another hands-free tunnel run:

7 News presenter Dean Felton prepares for another tunnel run

Interview with 7 News senior reporter Dean Felton, in front of the tunnels:

Interview in car in front of tunnel 600w

The demonstration extends beyond sunset - the Honda Civic under one of the EastLink toll points:

Honda Civic under EastLink toll point 2 600w

A close-up view of the Honda Civic under an EastLink toll point:

Honda Civic at EastLink toll point 4 600w

EastLink. Time Better Spent.