Attracting a record 173 people, Intelligent Transport Systems New Zealand’s annual conference has grown rapidly in recent years and increasingly seeks to solve the transport challenges faced by planners and government decision makers.
Rebranded as T-Tech, the annual conference now encompasses solutions beyond the traditional ITS traffic management hardware and software.
With over forty speakers at this year’s T-Tech, the conference included “Future Transport solutions, such as electric connected autonomous vehicles, and “Mobility as a Service”, business models enabled by technology such as ride hailing (Uber) and carsharing fleets like Yoogo, Mevo and Cityhop.
International keynote speakers represented two strong new modes of transport which may significantly change the urban landscape. Mr. Horace Dediu, a Romanian-American technology analyst, is considered the world-leading authority on “micro mobility”.
Micro mobility is a term coined by Mr. Dediu in 2017 describing a category of vehicles under 500kg that includes e-bikes, electric scooters and bike sharing schemes.
Dediu believes we have not yet begun to understand the wave of new solutions that will emerge in this category, he likens the current electric scooters to be similar to early version mobile phones in terms of the development ahead; a comparison he can talk with some authority to as a widely respected analyst of Apple and iPhones.
Mr. Dediu began researching transport disruption at the Clayton Christensen Institute which examines disruptive technologies. He said that autonomous cars as imagined by car manufacturers could not actually be classified as disruptive.
He has since become an advocate for the low-end of the transport, where small, efficient lightweight vehicles can replace the vastly more inefficient car in short trips.
Dediu organises large conferences in California and Europe and hosts the popular Micromobility podcast with New Zealander Oliver Bruce (formerly at Uber) using data from Uber, Lyft and various urban authorities to demonstrate his reasoning.
If safety, infrastructure and policy challenges can be overcome these new modes can replace a good percentage of inner-city trips which are currently solved by car trips creating congestion, pollution and require too much infrastructure and parking space.
While at the event Dediu got hands on experience of two New Zealand solutions which fit the micromobility category, being the Yike Bike, New Zealand’s answer to the scooter and Segway and also the Ohmio Hop, the small autonomous vehicle shuttles developed by Auckland-based Ohmio Automotion, a subsidiary of HMI Technologies.
The Ohmio Hop, of which a development version was given a serious facelift before featuring in the Spark TV adverts for 5G, is the smallest of the vehicles currently proposed by the Auckland company which will soon deliver their first commercial vehicle to Christchurch Airport, a “Lift” capable of carrying around 20 people.
Following Dediu in the program was Marie Verschuer a planner specialising in social and economic development who researches solutions for the busy Parramatta Road in Sydney and has gone on to become one of Australasia’s leading authorities on “trackless trams”.
The vehicles which can be autonomous, electric and require no rails or overhead lines are far from commonplace, but on paper and from early trials in China and Europe, seem to offer a very cost effective and adaptive mass transit solutions for cities.
Verschuer is working towards launching a major trial in Perth with support from across Australia and New Zealand, a trail that might help determine standards and true benefits.
Numerous other technologies and solutions were discussed, with papers and presentations, a significant focus given to Christchurch and their Smart City programme too.
Coinciding with Road Safety Week, ITSNZ announced a determination to gather industry input and achieve better transport safety. Safety being one of the three focus areas for ITSNZ alongside increasing efficiency and sustainability.
ITSNZ New Zealand also announced the introduction of ITS Industry Awards with three categories to encourage upcoming talent, best practice and innovation and to reward contributions to the industry (more details on the website). Also announced was commitment to the ITS World Congress in Singapore in October.