Driverless cars have arrived and Kiwis can expect to see hundreds on them on New Zealand roads by the end of next year.
That’s according to NZTech CEO Graeme Muller, commenting on today’s announcement from the Government on a research trial of driverless electric shuttle set to begin next year.
HMI Technologies and Christchurch International Airport announced the two-year research trial of a French-built Navya shuttle in Christchurch, starting in 2017.
They will collaborate with the University of Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, the NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry of Transport.
"This is great news for New Zealand,” Muller says.
"We are starting to see driverless vehicle pilots in New Zealand - the Volvo pilot in Tauranga in November and now the Christchurch Airport trial - but we are certainly not leading the world,” he notes.
However, Transport Minister Simon Bridges believes the government is “putting New Zealand ahead of the curve in transport innovation.”
Muller says driverless vehicle technology is developing at such a rapid pace that many cities around the world are already piloting the technology.
"The government has done a good job of opening up the opportunity for testing this technology in New Zealand but we should set ourselves some stretch goals if we want to lead the world,” he explains.
Bridges says, “Our supportive regulation around testing autonomous vehicles, enabling new technology to be tested while protecting public safety, have helped make this trial possible.”
He says the opportunity to conduct ‘extensive research’ about the 15-seat electric passenger transport shuttle will provide essential information about the vehicle and how it might be used in different New Zealand transport environments.
“Autonomous vehicles are an important part of the future of transport and offer potential safety, efficiency and environmental benefits,” Bridges says.
“It’s exciting to see a New Zealand-initiated trial where the skills and knowledge about managing and deploying the technology will transfer to New Zealanders.”
Muller adds, "I would predict that by the end of 2017 there will actually be hundreds of driverless vehicles in New Zealand at various stages of trial and commercial operation.”