Country's first official autonomous vehicle trial to be in Tauranga

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The country's first official demonstration of an autonomous driving vehicle using New Zealand roads is set to take place in Tauranga in November.

The New Zealand Traffic Institute, Volvo, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Ministry of Transport have come together to show how an autonomous vehicle will handle New Zealand's road conditions.

Car manufacturer Volvo will demonstrate the technology on a 10-15km stretch of public road in Tauranga as part of the national Trafinz transport conference.

Volvo XC90 Drive Me
Volvo XC90 Drive Me

Volvo NZ national manager Coby Duggan said the vehicle would self drive using sophisticated technology to navigate the road - with driver interaction only required at the halfway point of the trip.

Mr Duggan said the demonstration would take place in a "real world" environment with other motorists.

Anders Eugensson, a visiting expert from Volvo's Swedish headquarters, said the technology offered significant benefits for New Zealanders who commute daily or who are travelling between cities.

"Our research shows around nine in every ten crashes have a driver causation error component and the reality is, self driving cars simply do not get distracted. We believe this technology will greatly reduce the number of collisions on New Zealand roads while also improving efficiency," he said.

Mr Eugensson said autonomous driving (AD) would also help reduce congestion on our roads and improve productivity by reducing the daily commute stresses for workers and intercity travellers.

John Goettler the vice president of the New Zealand Local Authority Traffic Institute said the technology had real applications for the future of transport within the New Zealand roading network.

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

"New Zealand is an ideal location for the demonstration because of our world-leading regulatory environment, which encourages trialling and demonstrations of new technology such as autonomous vehicles, while protecting the safety of all road users.

"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," said Mr Goettler.

The demonstration was expected to take place on November 18 once planning and approvals for NZTA regulatory requirements have been completed.

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