Driverless shuttle trialled at New Zealand airport

Christchurch International Airport is hosting New Zealand’s first on-road research trial of autonomous vehicles.

The Smart Shuttle can carry up to 15 people and travel at speeds of up to 45kph (28mph). It has no steering wheel, and uses guidance systems that combine various technologies including LIDARs, stereo vision and odometry, according to New Zealand-based Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) provider HMI Technologies.

The vehicle is 100% electric and can also operate on inductive charging.

Airport managers are keen to understand how autonomous shuttles might operate and how people may react and interact with them, explained Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns.

“We can see the potential for driverless vehicles to transform and enhance mobility and transport options on the airport campus,” he said. “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.”

According to HMI, the initial trial will be conducted on private airport roads around Christchurch Airport. This is the first in a series of planned trials for the Smart Shuttle.

The three main objectives are:

  1. Understanding the technical and infrastructure requirements for fully autonomous vehicles to safely operate on New Zealand roads inside and beyond the airport environment.
  1. The human and behavioural issues that need to be managed for these vehicles to operate safely on public roads.
  1. The safety use cases that the regulator will need to be satisfied with in order to license a fully autonomous vehicle for use on New Zealand roads.

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