New Zealand’s first 5G-connected driverless car is being tested on Auckland streets. The test, taking place today (March 13), is a result of a collaboration between Spark New Zealand and Ohmio Automotion.
The vehicle will drive in a controlled area at Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct, using Spark’s pre-commercial 5G network available as part of its 5G Innovation Lab.
The 5G-connected driverless car was developed by Ohmio, a New Zealand company that has been trialling autonomous vehicles at Christchurch airport. Since these trials, the car has been upgraded with new technology to ensure it integrates with Spark’s 5G test network.
Although the vehicle is capable of driving at up to 25km/h (15.5 mph), the trial will cap the vehicles’ top speed at to 7km/h (4 mph) when it drives its pre-programmed test loop that lasts approximately seven minutes.
Ohmio plans to launch more driverless cars in more closed facilities across New Zealand, including airports, university campuses, retirement villages and hospitals.
Dr Mahmood Hikmet, head of research and development at Ohmio, said, “Today has demonstrated some of the exciting opportunities 5G will enable for our autonomous car technology. A 5G network can be up to a hundred times faster than 4G. It unlocks the true potential for autonomous driving, as messages need to be transmitted and decisions need to be made in real time.”
Spark’s preparation and testing for the 5G network started in March last year with a 5G mobile speed test in Auckland and Wellington. In Auckland, Spark achieved speeds of up to 18Gbp/s – which is around 100 times faster than many typical New Zealand wireless device users currently experience.
Spark is on the countdown to July 1, 2020, by which time it aims to have New Zealand’s first 5G network live on the Auckland Harbour for Emirates Team New Zealand to use as part of its preparation to defend the America’s Cup.
Colin Brown, lead for network evolution at Spark, said, “As our 5G Innovation Lab evolves, we are looking forward to working closely with more New Zealand businesses to test and explore the future of 5G together.
“Today is another step on the road to 5G for Spark and New Zealand businesses. Over the coming months we will continue rolling out more real-world tests of 5G-connected technology with businesses.”