New Zealand-made driverless vehicle joins Christchurch Airport autonomy trials


New Zealand’s first on road testing of fully-autonomous vehicles (AVs) will take on a fresh perspective later this year with the inclusion of the country’s first locally designed and built vehicle.

The Ohmio Lift SAE Level 4+ self-driving shuttle will take part in a new phase of the country’s trials on private roads at Christchurch Airport. The self-drive Ohmio vehicles are designed to operate on predetermined repetitive routes using control software that was originally developed by HMI Technologies, an Australasia-based ITS technology company.

The system created allows vehicles to be deployed quickly, with a mapping capability that means the vehicle can learn its course and improve performance using artificial intelligence (AI) to repeat the charted course over and over again.

Multiple Ohmio vehicles can also platoon, forming a connected convoy, which makes Ohmio a scalable solution, responding to demand to operate as an efficient and safe ‘virtual tram’.

“This first build of the self-driving Ohmio Lift is a significant milestone for the company,” said Ohmio Automation’s chief executive, Stephen Matthews. “It is proof of our capability and realization of our world-class driverless vehicle technology, pioneered in New Zealand.

“We are very excited to partner with Christchurch Airport. Their vison to realize the future allows us to demonstrate Ohmio vehicles successfully operating as a ‘first-mile, last-mile’ strategy in the airport context. We have the vehicle, they have the roads where we can test safely, and we look forward to showcasing the Lift in a world premier event in the next few months.”

Christchurch Airport’s general manager of corporate affairs, Michael Singleton, commented, “The second phase of the trial, which began more than a year ago, will allow the New Zealand vehicle to be proven and licensed. Our joint fully autonomous vehicle trial continues, with the Ohmio Lift proving this country is able to design and construct a vehicle made for our conditions.

“Collaborating with Ohmio means we have a technology partner and producer able to take the learnings from the trial to date, and then adapt and enhance the vehicle to New Zealand needs. The focus of the trial remains on autonomy rather than a particular vehicle, and we look forward to continuing to explore how autonomous shuttles might play a part in our future at our airport.

“Christchurch Airport’s growing reputation as a testbed for innovation, and in particular autonomy, is growing, because we combine the right physical environment for safe testing with understanding of technological advances.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).