Self-driv­ing shut­tle built for NZ needs

Waikato Times - - Business - AMANDA CROPP

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.

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