Tauranga test for autonomous Volvo

By Aimee Shaw

The first official trial of autonomous driving vehicles is set to begin on New Zealand roads in November.

Car manufacturer Volvo will preview the autonomous technology in Tauranga on a 10km - 15km stretch of public road.

Volvo New Zealand manager Coby Duggan said the vehicle will self-drive using sophisticated technology to navigate the road. Driver intervention will be minimal, only being required at the halfway point of the journey.

The trial, which is part of a partnership between the Ministry of Transport, NZTA, Trafinz and Volvo, will take place in a "real world" environment alongside other motorists.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the testing was a first for New Zealand.

"Autonomous vehicles will be a big part of the future of transport and offer potential safety, efficiency and environmental benefits," he said. "It is exciting to see international recognition that New Zealand is at the forefront of enabling this technology."

Vice president of the New Zealand Local Authority Traffic Institute (Trafinz) John Goettler said the technology had real applications for the future of transport in the country.

"This demonstration is a significant first milestone towards the introduction of self-drive vehicles to enhance road safety and productivity in New Zealand," Goettler said.

"As the volume of these vehicles grows we also need to turn our attention to the creation of smart highways and motorways, to obtain the real benefits of safer, more efficient, people focused and less congested travel."

New Zealand is said to be an ideal location for the trial due to its "world-leading regulatory environment", Goettler said. Supportive legislation and a wide range of climate and road conditions in a relatively small area are among other reasons the trial is being tested in New Zealand.

Bridges said the Government was ensuring New Zealand stayed at the forefront of transport innovation.

"Testing in New Zealand also enables an understanding of how the technology responds to the New Zealand environment and allows our transport sector to gain skills in deploying and managing new technology."

- NZ Herald

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