Autonomous EV shuttle on Christchurch trial next year 

Autonomous EV shuttle on Christchurch trial next year 

The first New Zealand trial of a fully electric autonomous 15-person shuttle will take place around Christchurch Airport Campus next year.

HMI Technologies is buying a French Navya 15-person shuttle for the trial.  The vehicle is fully autonomous, has no steering wheel and is electric powered. 

It is expected to arrive in Christchurch before Christmas, with the trial scheduled to begin early in 2017.

Trial partners HMI Technologies and Christchurch International Airport New Zealand are focusing on finding answers to fundamental questions about how these vehicles could operate in this country.

Testing on the Christchurch Airport campus will start on private roads with no public present, with the long-term aim of moving to public roads when proving the safety case, and all regulatory approvals are in place.

Christchurch Airport corporate affairs general manager, Michael Singleton, says the airport’s interest in this trial focuses on plans for linking the main areas around the airport campus.

“We hope to see autonomous vehicles operating in and around the airport eventually,” says Singleton.

“We want to understand the infrastructure and operating requirements for these vehicles, to understand the human/technology interface and to build the safety case for autonomous vehicles on our campus,” he says.

“The trial vehicle being electric also fits well with the airport’s sustainability objectives,” says Singleton.

HMI Technologies managing director Mohammed Hikmet, says his company and the airport share an interest in New Zealand being an early adopter of these vehicles.

“We see tremendous possibilities for businesses like ours to develop solutions and applications for use with autonomous vehicles,” says Hikmet.

The former transport secretary, Martin Matthews, is overseeing the trial and describes it as very significant.

“Many people believe we are years away from seeing these vehicles on our roads, but I disagree,” says Matthews.

“I believe they will be with us very soon, so it’s important we understand what is required for them to operate safely here,” he says.

The trial partners will work with University of Canterbury researchers and developers, who will help design and undertake the tests.

Christchurch City Council will also use the tests to raise awareness of how these vehicles and other technological developments may alter the way cities work in the future.

The Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Transport Agency will also be involved.

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