Driverless bus coming to Christchurch International Airport

  • 04/10/2016
One of the Navya driverless shuttles (Supplied)
One of the Navya driverless shuttles (Supplied)

Christchurch International Airport is going to try out a driverless electric shuttle that can carry 15 passengers.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the airport company and HMI Technologies will start trials with the French-built Navya shuttle next year.

"The opportunity to conduct extensive research about this electric passenger transport shuttle will provide essential information about the vehicle and how it might be used in different New Zealand transport environments," he said on Tuesday.

"Autonomous vehicles are an important part of the future of transport."

Christchurch International Airport's general manager of corporate affairs Michael Singleton says the shuttle won't be operating for the public for a while. 

"It is first foremost a trial, so there's not a specific route."

He says the good thing about an airport is it has a range of environments to test the new vehicle in. As it passes specific safety milestones, he says they'll understand more how it behaves and progress it towards a public operation.

It's expected to arrive in the country before Christmas and both parties will fund the two-year trial though they won't reveal the cost. Autonomous shuttles are said to be cheaper, safer, and more efficient than driver-manned public transport.

Navya's Arma travels at a top speed of 45km/h, has no steering wheel, and the only infrastructure it requires is an inductive charging station.

University of Canterbury researchers and developers will help design and undertake the trial.

New Zealand's transport laws don't require a driver to be present for AVs to be used on the road although any trial requires an approved safety management plan.

The NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry of Transport will work with the trial partners to manage safety risks.