Christchurch Airport has launched a fully autonomous shuttle in a New Zealand first on-road research trial.

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

The trial will be carried out initially in a closed area of road available on the airport campus. Once the safety requirements of the shuttle are proven, trials are expected on public roads, under controlled arrangements.

The public will be able to ride on the shuttle once it is demonstrated that is safe.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said autonomous electric vehicles were part of the future.

"They are coming ready or not and I'd rather be ready. The significance of attracting this project to Christchurch at this time cannot be over-stated. This is an incredibly exciting time in our history."

Advertisement

Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said the airport was keen to understand how people might react and interact with the autonomous vehicles.

"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' director of Australasian Driverless Vehicle Technologies, Dave Verma,said there were opportunities for New Zealand to be at the forefront of this technology.

The trial will begin in the next few weeks.