Autonomous car on Auckland streets

5G takes the wheel

Spark and New Zealand driverless car developer Ohmio Automotion are to test an autonomous car in a controlled area at Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct using Spark’s pre-commercial 5G network, part of its 5G Innovation Lab.

The 5G-connected car carries up to four people. Using a tablet, passengers are able to hail the car which then moves down the street to collect them. Inside, a dashboard shows the car’s environment, monitored in real time using LiDAR technology.

Spark launched its Innovation Lab in November 2018 with the Emirates America's Cup team and with Spark promising it would give the team and edge in the America's Cup races to be held in July 2021.

The 5G-connected driverless car was developed by Ohmio, a subsidiary of Auckland based intelligent transport systems company HMI Technologies — which has been trialling autonomous vehicles at Christchurch airport. Spark says this vehicle has been upgraded to integrate it with the 5G test network.

Ohmio’s head of research and development Dr Mahmood Hikmet said he believed the test to be only the second of its type in the world.

“A 5G network can be up to 100x faster than 4G, which unlocks the true potential for autonomous driving, as messages need to be transmitted and decisions made in real-time,” he said.

“A significant drop in latency – or the reaction time when one device talks to another – will give cars human-like reflexes and opens up multiple possibilities for connected infrastructure and a smart city ecosystem.”

Ohmio says it plans to launch more driverless cars in more closed facilities across New Zealand, including airports, university campuses, retirement villages and hospitals.

It plans to gain on-road certification and look for opportunities to use the cars on public streets alongside regular vehicles.

“One example of this is a ‘First and Last Mile Solution’ to carry people short distances and provide a connection to or from transport hubs, reducing the need for park-and-rides,” the company says.


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