NZ's first driverless 5G car wows Aucklanders on test run

Early commuters along Auckland waterfront were puzzled by the sight of a driverless shuttle around Wynyard Wharf on Wednesday morning.

The vehicle is New Zealand's first 5G connected driverless car - and the test is believed to be only the second time in the world a driverless car has been tested on the technology.

Passengers hail the car using a tablet and it then moves on a pre-determined route - operating like 'virtual rails'. If a person or another vehicle moves out in front of the car then a LiDAR radar using light and lasers detects the obstruction and stops or slows down the vehicle.

The prototype carries four people and goes up to 25 km/h.

The company behind it, Ohmio, has been trialling autonomous vehicles at Christchurch Airport and just last week signed a deal to start producing the vehicles in China.

The plan is for it to be used to transport people in controlled traffic areas within places like airports, university campuses, retirement villages and hospitals - so don't expect to see it on public roads anytime in the near future.

Spark has been working with Ohmio at its newly opened 'innovation lab' to showcase 5G to New Zealand businesses. That test network is currently operated by Huawei, which the GCSB banned for the pending network upgrade.

There are no restrictions in the meantime with testing but Colin Brown, Spark's lead for network evolution, says the application for long-term use is still a work in progress.

The telco is on a countdown to launch 5G by July 1, 2020, however the Government is yet to allocate the spectrum that mobile operators need to run 5G services.