Over the last decade some of the world’s biggest automotive and technology companies have begun to focus on autonomous vehicle technology. In particular what we know as the ‘self-driving’ car. In the last week Apple has announced the acceleration of their project to create a fully autonomous electric vehicle. Currently there are no fully autonomous vehicles currently available to purchase. But it is a milestone that is expected in the near future, some have predicted as early as 2025. A vehicle is considered to be fully autonomous once there is no driver required to be present in the driver’s seat.
But what does this mean for New Zealand? When will we start seeing driverless cars around our towns and cities? And how will autonomous vehicles be perceived once they make it to our shores? Shopless has taken a deep dive into self-driving cars and what we can expect when they come to New Zealand.
When Will Self Driving Cars Be Here?
The NZTA estimated that we will first start to see self-driving cars in NZ in 2025. They explain that there are different levels to self-automated cars – currently in New Zealand we have level 1-2 cars. These are fully driver-led cars, but may include features such as cruise control or parking assist. Level 3 autonomous vehicles are ‘conditionally automated’. This is what we see in the current self-driving Teslas on the market. In the NZ car market today we only see vehicles from level 1-3, as defined by the NZTA.
Level 4 cars are considered highly automated cars, and are anticipated to be available in New Zealand by 2025. These cars rely on little-to-no human input, but may have limitations on the capabilities of the car. (May not be able to be operated in certain areas, or around certain infrastructure.) Cars that fully rely on self automation and are co-operative with all conditions are level 5 cars. These are projected to be here from around 2030. Once these fully automated cars are in operation, it is believed that New Zealand will be quick to import and standardise these cars.
Businesses Embracing Automated Fleets
When fully self-driving cars are in operation in New Zealand, it is believed that local businesses will be quick to incorporate these cars. There are many features of a self driving car that benefits a business. The most prominent of these being the safety features. Self driving cars will be considered significantly safer than cars with drivers. This is because the car will be programmed to identify and react safely to hazards. For this reason insurance premiums on self-driving cars are expected to be less. Also, it is less likely a business will need to deal with the small accidents that come frequently with driver error.
Additionally, many high-mileage businesses have already expressed their interest in incorporating automated cars into their fleets. ‘Ohmio Automotion’ in Auckland is a small New Zealand business in the process of developing an automated fleet of shuttles. They plan on supplying these vehicles to the Auckland and Christchurch Airport shuttle services in the next few years. They stated that as the route for these shuttles are repetitive these vehicles can start operating for airport businesses. However fleets for large businesses that require extensive travel such as taxi fleets are still a number of years away.
To accommodate the limitations of self-driving cars there are alterations that need to be made on NZ roads. Automotive cars rely on a variety of safety features to help ensure that it can identify hazards. This includes sensors, cameras and lasers providing these security features. To accommodate the over-protective nature of self-driving cars the roads need to be as clear and hazard free as possible. Things such as unstructured roading, low hanging trees, uneven surfaces or debris that infringes on roads may cause autonomous cars to react in a way that it is alerted to a hazard. Improvements need to be made across New Zealand on roading to minimise this risk. Creating a structured and less ambiguous environment for these cars to drive on.
Updated Driving Safety Standards
It is predicted the NZTA will begin accommodating driverless cars into the NZ road code and safety awareness by 2025. This does not mean major changes. More likely, to accommodate the chance there will be instances between self-driving cars and other vehicles. Or individual crashes that need legal oversight. Rules will likely come into place around where the passengers of autonomous cars would be required to sit. Potential age restrictions on individual passengers of self-driving cars. And possible restrictions on where the autonomous vehicles can be driven.
There will likely be progressive stages into the introduction of these vehicles, therefore progressive application of these rules. Initially the rules that are applied will be based on international incidents involving safety. Eventually they will incorporate how well the self-driving cars are responding to New Zealand roads.
These are a few changes you might notice in the near future, as New Zealand embarks on the journey of introducing self-driving cars onto kiwi roads. For some, automated cars will be a welcome addition to the NZ automotive landscape. If you want to learn more about self driving cars – this Youtube video gives a comprehensive analysis on self driving cars.
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