Self-driving shuttle built for NZ needs
The first on-road testing of a New Zealand-made driverless vehicle will begin at Christchurch Airport in the next few months.
Ohmio Automation’s locally designed and built LIFT electric vehicle will be able to carry up to 20 people and the airport has already talked about using it to transport passengers from car parks to the terminal.
Ohmio chief executive Stephen Matthews is hopeful that the LIFT will be certified to carry passengers on-road inside a year.
A French-made autonomous vehicle imported by Ohmio has been trialled on private roads at the airport for more than a year, but Matthews said the Kiwi version would be larger (4.7 metres long) and include new navigation and obstacle detection technology.
Matthews declined to put a price on the new vehicle other than to say it was ‘‘very expensive’’ and he said the amount the airport company had contributed to the trials was confidential.
Ohmio was in talks with other potential users such as retirement villages and hospitals interested in using it to transport patients.
‘‘Human cost is the biggest cost of transporting people and if we can take that cost out of moving people, we can lower the operating costs,’’ Mathews said.
The vehicles are designed to operate on predetermined repetitive routes, and their mapping function meant they could learn a route and repeat it over and over.
Multiple Ohmio vehicles could also join up to form a convoy, then split up to take passengers to different destinations.
The body of the LIFT is being made in Auckland and the chassis in Wellington.
Christchurch Airport’s manager of corporate affairs, Michael Singleton, said the second phase of the trial meant the vehicle could be licensed, and it was built for New Zealand conditions.
The airport’s interest in new technology has also driven its involvement with Cora, a driverless air taxi under development in Christchurch by Zephyr Air.
Ohmio Automation is building the first New Zealand-made autonomous vehicle. It will soon be trialled at Christchurch Airport to gain on-road certification.