Au­ton­o­mous car to hit the road

South Waikato News - - Motoring - ROB MAETZIG

Au­ton­o­mous driv­ing will be­come a re­al­ity in New Zealand in Novem­ber when Tau­ranga hosts the coun­try’s first of­fi­cial demon­stra­tion of how it all works.

A spe­cially kit­ted-out Volvo will demon­strate the tech­nol­ogy along a 15 km stretch of pub­lic road – with other ve­hi­cles also us­ing the road.

It’s go­ing to hap­pen dur­ing the New Zealand Traf­fic In­sti­tute (Trafinz) con­fer­ence, which will look at how New Zealand’s trans­porta­tion in­dus­try is em­brac­ing and adapt­ing to rapid and com­plex changes in ur­ban cen­tres and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Trafinz, Volvo, the New Zealand Trans­port Agency and the Min­istry of Trans­port have come to­gether to demon­strate how an au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle will han­dle New Zealand’s road con­di­tions.

Volvo NZ na­tional man­ager Coby Dug­gan says the ve­hi­cle will self-drive us­ing so­phis­ti­cated tech­nol­ogy to nav­i­gate the road – with driver in­ter­ac­tion only re­quired at the half­way point of the trip.

An­ders Eu­gens­son, a visit­ing ex­pert from Volvo’s Swedish head­quar­ters, says the tech­nol­ogy of­fers sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits for New Zealan­ders who com­mute daily or who are trav­el­ling between cities.

‘‘Our re­search shows around nine in ev­ery 10 crashes have a driver er­ror com­po­nent – and the re­al­ity is that self driv­ing cars sim­ply do not get dis­tracted. We be­lieve this tech­nol­ogy will greatly re­duce the num­ber of col­li­sions on New Zealand roads while also im­prov­ing ef­fi­ciency,’’ he says.

Eu­gens­son says au­ton­o­mous driv­ing will also help re­duce con­ges­tion on our roads and im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity by re­duc­ing the daily com­mute stresses for work­ers and in­ter­city trav­ellers.

Trafinz vice-pres­i­dent John Goet­tler says the tech­nol­ogy has real ap­pli­ca­tions for the fu­ture of trans­port within the New Zealand road­ing net­work.

‘‘This demon­stra­tion will be a sig­nif­i­cant first mile­stone to­wards the in­tro­duc­tion of self­drive ve­hi­cles to en­hance road safety and pro­duc­tiv­ity in New Zealand,’’ he says.

New Zealand is an ideal lo­ca­tion for the demon­stra­tion be­cause of its world-lead­ing reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment, which en­cour­ages tri­alling and demon­stra­tions of new tech­nol­ogy such as au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, while pro­tect­ing the safety of all road users.

‘‘As the vol­ume of these ve­hi­cles grows we also need to turn our at­ten­tion to the cre­ation of smart high­ways and mo­tor­ways, to ob­tain the real ben­e­fits of safer, more ef­fi­cient, peo­ple fo­cused and less con­gested travel,’’ says Goet­tler.

The demon­stra­tion is ex­pected to take place on Novem­ber 18 once plan­ning and ap­provals for NZTA reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments have been com­pleted.

Work­ing while driv­ing – it will be pos­si­ble than ks to self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles.

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