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NZ-made driverless vehicle joins Christchurch trial

New Zealand’s first on-road testing of fully autonomous vehicles will change up a gear later this year with the inclusion of the first locally designed and built vehicle.

The ohmio LIFT™ will hit the road in a new phase of the trials on private roads at Christchurch Airport.

Ohmio Automation Chief Executive Stephen Matthews says this first build of the self-driving ohmio LIFT is a significant milestone for the company.

“It is proof of our capability and realisation of our world-class driverless vehicle technology, pioneered in New Zealand,” he says.  “We are very excited to partner with Christchurch Airport.  Their vison to realise 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.”

Mr Matthews says the self-drive ohmio vehicles are designed to operate on predetermined repetitive routes. The system created allows vehicles to be deployed quickly, with a mapping capability which means the vehicle can learn its course and improve performance using artificial intelligence [AI] to repeat the charted course over and over.  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.

Christchurch Airport General Manager Corporate Affairs, Michael Singleton, says the second phase of the trial which began more than a year ago will allow the New Zealand vehicle to be proven and licenced.

“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,” he says.

“Collaborating with ohmio means we have a technology partner and producer which is 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 test bed for innovation, and in particular autonomy, is growing, because we combine the right physical environment for safe testing with understanding of technological advances,” he says.