New Zealand’s Next Step to Driverless Cars

Overnight the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) released a tender for an “Investigation of New Zealand’s technical readiness to support the deployment of automated and connected vehicles.” It’s for level three and four connected vehicles.

The focus of this research is on what is technically required for the deployment of automated and connected vehicles in New Zealand. This includes, but is not limited to, an investigation of the requirements for and current state of:
• Digital mapping of New Zealand’s land transport network, including road characteristics, speed limits, etc
• New Zealand’s roads and roadside infrastructure as relevant to automated vehicles, including lane markings, traffic signal broadcasting, interface with existing intelligent transport systems, etc
• GNSS coverage and reliability, including the need for augmentation (note the link to actions 19 and 20 in the Intelligent Transport Systems Action Plan 2014-18 – see below)
• New Zealand direct short range communication (DSRC) and cellular network communication systems and issues, including range, security, etc.

The research output is intended to provide a detailed assessment of New Zealand’s overall technical readiness for level three and four automated and connected vehicles. This should include the identification of any technical problems and issues, but should not go into recommendations – though possible technical solutions should be noted where these are identified in the course of the research.

Level three and four vehicles are categorised as:

Limited Self-Driving Automation (Level 3): Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time. The second-generation Google car is an example of limited self-driving automation.

Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles. The third-generation Google car is an example of full self-driving automation. Vehicles with level 4 automation may also be referred to autonomous vehicles.  – Source

This is the next step along the path to what promises to become an extremely disruptive technology.

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