New Zealand's major transport conference, TRAFINZ, kicked off in Tauranga today.

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless, who introduced the conference, said it was significant the event was being held in the city. The event has attracted about 170 delegates from around New Zealand and overseas.

"The delegates can observe our own traffic conditions, both the good parts and the problems, while they are here, and hopefully they will talk about some of those things so we might get some suggestions."

Keynote speaker Professor Glenn Lyons, from the University of the West of England, described his recent research on the "uncertain world" of transportation planning, based on his work with the New Zealand Ministry of Transport, and the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation in the UK.


"We are all children of the age of 'automobility'," he told conference delegates. "Whether you own a car or use it or not, we have all grown up in a world that has been defined by a particular [transport] regime."

But while members of the older generation might be children of the motor age, they and their children now lived in the digital age, he said.

"Those two regimes are colliding and some very significant changes are happening on both of these parallel tracks," Mr Lyons said. "The challenging question is how these two things are coming together."

One highlight is expected to be on Friday, when the conference will feature the first formal demonstration of a self-drive car in New Zealand.

The three-day event at Trinity Wharf is organised by the NZ Traffic Institute.