A project to test smart technology on a Northland road renowned for logging truck roll overs will go ahead despite a bid for $15 million of funding to expand the project being rejected.

Martin Knoche, chief executive of the Northland Innovation Centre, and Nigel Studdart from NorthTec, applied for $15m of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funding for a Regional Research Institute in Northland

The hub would allow Northland trucks to test smart technology which could improve the safety of the vehicle and create 115 jobs in the region. However Mr Knoche said they have been told while MBIE were impressed, the application was unsuccessful.

"We were not very happy because we put a lot of effort into this and we still think this would be a fantastic opportunity for Northland.


"But then we thought maybe it's not such a bad thing and we shifted gears."

Mr Knoche said now they will be trialling smart technology in trucks on Otaika Valley Rd - which is renowned for truck roll overs.

"It is of the busiest roads in the Whangarei area, one of the most dangerous roads. We want to put technology into the road, onto the road and on the trucks to address the issue of how to drive safer to the conditions."

He said several different groups - including Opus Engineering, MetService and Auckland University of Technology - had joined together and would be contributing technology and research to the trial.

He said weather stations, which would measure weather and visibility condition, would be placed along the road and on trucks, and smart sensors would be place in the road.

The data measured will be used to warn drivers of different conditions and give them advice. For example, what speed to travel around a bend when there is flooding.

"I'm doing my class 2 and class 4 licence so I had the opportunity to sit with existing and aspiring truck drivers and they are really scared. Imagine driving about 14 hours, sometimes six days a week on $18 to $20."

Mr Knoche said the group had applied for $250,000 of New Zealand Transport Agency funding. If that was successful he believed the trial would start in May, if not it would begin later in the year.

In addition to this 4.5km of roading at Marsden City has been secured to conduct "smart transport tests" with road sensors being installed now and testing due to start later in the year.

The testing will include working with waste management companies to semi-automate some of the driving they do and will also experiment using electric vehicle technology rather than diesel.

Mr Knoche said they would continue to apply for funding for the research hub.