HMI Technologies recently launched New Zealand’s first fully driverless vehicle trial in partnership with Christchurch International Airport. This is the first of many trials of autonomous vehicles that HMI technologies hopes to activate in Australasia this year, as the business seeks to become a regional leader, helping establish a pathway to widespread application of this rapidly emerging technology. 

Launched by Simon Bridges, New Zealand’s Transport Minister, the initial trial in Christchurch has several objectives that will they expect will pave the way towards deployment of level five fully autonomous vehicles to be used in a variety of applications. Level five autonomous vehicles are those that are effectively completely driverless, requiring no human intervention to operate or navigate. The Navya ARMA vehicle being used in the Christchurch trial, whilst driverless, remains a level four driverless vehicle, as it follows a predetermined course.

For HMI, the trials represent an exciting new direction for the business as it continues to grow and diversify. Already well-established in ITS industry, with offices in three countries, is well established in the Intelligent Transport Systems industry, as a developer and manufacturer of solutions, mainly in traffic monitoring and control.

For HMI, these ground breaking autonomous vehicle trials will enable the research and development teams to develop their expertise in the safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles.  With autonomous vehicles set to be one of the most important disruptive technologies, changing the way we move people and freight, developing expertise in this area was seen as an HMI Technologies as a leader in intelligent transport systems in the Asia-Pacific region.

To lead the driverless initiatives, HMI has appointed internationally respected Dave Verma as Director of Australasian Driverless Vehicle Initiatives. For New Zealand-native Mr Verma, this provided an exciting opportunity to return to Australasia following several senior international roles.

“New Zealand is uniquely positioned as a country to test autonomous vehicle technology.” says Mr Verma, “The ITS industry here has excellent government support, there are few regulatory hurdles and New Zealand has a growing international reputation as a technology innovation hub in many fields including ITS.”

The trial is being operated in partnership with Christchurch International Airport, who own a network of private roads where the vehicle can be tested before trials on public roads begin.  New Zealand’s government, transport agencies and university researchers from Canterbury University’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory are also expected to be heavily involved in coordinating and monitoring some of the trials.

For new CEO, Stephen Matthews this trial will begin to establish HMI Technologies as a global leader in ITS, “Building on HMI’s impressive reputation as an ITS innovator, with this trial and more to come the business is positioning itself at the forefront of the paradigm shift in transport technology. We are in early discussions with other organisations to partner on more trials in the Asia Pacific region.”

Christchurch Airport and HMI Technologies have committed to run the trials over two years and the public will be invited to take part in some of the trials.



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Background information

About HMI Technologies

HMI Technologies is world leading in custom-built Intelligent Transport Systems, the company designs, manufactures and installs hardware and software to exceed quality specifications and service expectations. Specialists in a range of products including variable message signs, speed activated signs, speed indication devices, motorway signalling, modem/network based systems and other electronic signage.

HMI’s research and development and business development teams are some of Asia Pacific’s most knowledgeable, capable of designing innovative solutions to keep pace with tomorrow’s transport needs. The company is rapidly becoming established regional experts in deploying autonomous vehicles and start of the art transport technology.

About the Christchurch Trial

The Christchurch trial will operate on private property initially, with HMI, CIAL and Canterbury University operating the trials. The initial trial was established with three main objectives:

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

About the Navya ARMA vehicle

HMI Technologies has purchased the Navya ARMA vehicle to be used in the Christchurch Trial, here are some key features:

  • There is no driving seat, steering wheel, or pedals
  • It is programed to operate on predetermined routes, a user interface allows users to select their route or destination
  • To navigate safely it uses 2D and 3D Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges).
  • The vehicle will quickly come to a complete stop if it detects anything unusual in its path
  • Capable of speeds of up to 50kmh, the vehicle will typically travel far slower during trials and testing
  • Electric powered, with air conditioning operating, it is expected batteries will last between six and seven hours per charge
  • Has capacity of 15 people, 10 seated and 5 standing