Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and autonomous vehicles are set to bring some of the biggest transformations in transport. David Vinsen, chair of Intelligent Transport Systems New Zealand, tells local authorities what to expect in 2018.
The drivers for deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS) and adopting innovation in transport technology infrastructure and traffic management, are the same throughout the world: ITS is helping authorities to achieve improvements in safety, efficiency and sustainability.
ITS encompasses the emerging technologies of autonomous vehicles (AVs), shared mobility and mobility as a service (MaaS), as well as the technology systems and infrastructure that help monitor, manage and collect data across all transport modes.
I was appointed chair of Intelligent Transport Systems New Zealand in November last year, just as the dust was settling after the ITS World Congress in Montreal, and with many of the board and a record number of our members returning from this global event.
Feedback from the congress confirmed that New Zealand has several competitive advantages when it comes to trialling and adopting innovative technology to improve our transport network.
Technology is transforming all aspects of transport at a rapid pace. Our role at ITS New Zealand is to educate and advocate for adoption of the best of these new technologies, not for disruption’s sake, but for the betterment of the country.
Confirmed at the world congress, was that the New Zealand government, the Ministry of Transport, transport agencies, and several regional councils are all progressive by world standards. Indeed, in some areas we are world leading.
Both Christchurch City Council and NZTA were exhibiting at the ITS World Congress: Christchurch showcasing its Smart City ambitions and the NZTA showcasing its own innovative MaaS platform, a very hot topic globally.
Thinking globally, acting locally
With technology pushing forward around the world, the work ITS New Zealand does with international conferences, standards committees and in partnerships is extremely important. I am well supported by Mohammed Hikmet, our president, who is a board member of ITS Asia-Pacific and represents New Zealand on numerous committees.
The government is engaging with several overseas experts and participating in international trials. One very significant example is the two-year trial of Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS), which is co-funded by Australia and New Zealand.
SBAS are corrections systems that improve the accuracy and integrity of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS. Current GPS locations are accurate to within five to 10 metres: SBAS will improve accuracy to one metre or better. While New Zealand and Australia have good access to GNSS we do not, unlike most regions of the developed world, have access to any reliable free-to-air augmentation services.
SBAS is expected to improve air navigation, smartphone-based services, asset management and precision agriculture, and is expected to be needed for the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles. For example, currently a vehicle is able to recognise what road it is travelling on but with SBAS, it will also know what lane it is in and its distance from surrounding objects.
The trial programme will test the SBAS service across nine sectors: aviation, road, rail, maritime, spatial, construction, mining, utilities and agriculture. New Zealand’s contribution of A$2 million, over three financial years, is supplementing the Australian-funded trial programme and the development of the business case for a permanent SBAS service.
On the ground
ITS projects throughout New Zealand continue to help regional authorities forecast, plan transport projects, and monitor and manage their transport routes.
With cycling infrastructure on the rise, mention should be made of the Quay Street cycleway in Auckland which saw New Zealand’s first permanent installation of traffic counting technology specifically for cycle traffic. A Zelt inductive loop counter combined with a display unit counts cyclists on this busy route used by both commuters and recreational cyclists. In a little over a year, the system recorded 200,000 trips, displaying return on infrastructure investment for all to see.
School Zone Signs are a widespread example of ITS technology that play a vital role in community road safety. In Tauranga, HMI Technologies has installed its latest generation of School Zone Signs incorporating radar. The 17 signs will provide the Tauranga Traffic Operations Centre and the Police with statistics to determine which areas may require extra traffic enforcement and when.
The Auckland Waterview tunnel and SH20 extension is the latest Managed Motorway or Smart Motorway, which includes a range of technology to manage traffic and ensure safety. The ITS and electromechanical systems oversight was led by Spanish company SICE, as part of the Well-Connected Alliance.
Kiwi IT company Fusion Networks, which manages the tunnel networks, designed and tested all the network technology, ensuring integration with Auckland’s existing traffic management systems.
In the tunnels, traffic volumes exceed 60,000 vehicles daily: however, the combination of technology in Waterview allows NZTA to gather performance data, monitor traffic flows, identify accidents quickly and enforce variable speed limits. At Waterview, the variable speed limits of between 80 kilometres per hour and 30 kilometres per hour are communicated to users by electronic speed signs, reducing speed limits to minimise traffic jams, reduce crash risk or slow traffic if there is an incident.
The introduction of the key infrastructure has resulted in very good improvements to traffic flow and now, following feedback and using data from the network, NZTA is in consultations investigating whether an upper limit of kilometres per hour speeds can be returned in some places.
New Zealand innovations
MaaS and AVs are set to bring some of the biggest transformations in transport, changing the vehicles and potentially the ownership models. In New Zealand we have some world-leading examples of both.
HMI Technologies has a long history of developing ITS solutions but with the launch its AV trial at Christchurch Airport in January 2017, followed by trials in Sydney and Melbourne, the company has quickly become a regional leader in AVs.
In the three trials, the company uses a French-designed Navya vehicle, but in October last year HMI Technologies revealed its research team had also developed its own AV technology. Branded ohmio, two or more of these shuttle vehicles can form a convoy with each other and communicate with traffic management software. The technology was demonstrated at a launch in Christchurch, with plans for the first vehicles to be on the road in 2018.
In Queenstown, a collaboration between NZTA, Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Auckland Transport, created a pilot MaaS eco-system, via a free and open transport app named Choice.
Users can select and book their journey with multiple modes of transport, including buses, taxis and even helicopters. This combines services from multiple operators in one marketplace and is complemented by destination information and real-time transport tracking.
This year we will see both of these programmes enter their next phase and we look forward to observing how they evolve and the reception they receive when rolled out to the wider public.
This article was first published in the February 2017 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.