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26 Jan 2017

New Zealand's first Smart Shuttle unveiled in Christchurch

The future arrived at Christchurch Airport this morning, with the introduction of the fully autonomous Smart Shuttle for New Zealand's first on-road research trial.

The Smart Shuttle will carry 15 people, has no steering wheel and is electric powered.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says Christchurch is well known as the Garden City, but is also the home of innovation and creativity.

"Today's launch demonstrates this. Autonomous electric vehicles are part of our future. They are coming ready or not  and I'd rather be ready. Christchurch has become a city of opportunity… a place where anything is possible. The significance of attracting this project to Christchurch at this time cannot be over-stated. This is an incredibly exciting time in our history."

Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Malcolm Johns says the airport team is keen to understand how autonomous shuttles might operate at Christchurch Airport and how people may react and interact with them.

"We can see the potential for driverless vehicles to transform and enhance mobility and transport options on the airport campus. We want to explore the possibility of deploying autonomous vehicles to assist people moving around our campus efficiently and sustainably, so we formed a partnership with HMI Technologies to consider how we might make this happen."

HMI Technologies is New Zealand's leading Intelligent Transport System (ITS) provider and Dave Verma, Director of Australasian Driverless Vehicle Technologies, says the company is involved in the vehicle trial for three key reasons.

"Firstly as an intelligent transport systems innovator, our R&D and business development teams will get vital hands-on experience. We also hope the trial will prove the efficacy of autonomous vehicles to commercial operators like Christchurch Airport, and to government decision makers. Additionally we want the New Zealand public and students to have the opportunity to participate and provide feedback on the experience.

HMI sees that the AV vehicle technology is emerging at a rapid pace and there are opportunities for New Zealand to be at the forefront of this technology.  We are an established operator and innovator in the intelligent transport systems industry, so are well positioned to be an early adopter and facilitator for trials and commercial applications."

The New Zealand based and funded trial will begin in the next few weeks on private roads on the airport campus.