An international expert in intelligent transportation systems (ITS) says New Zealand’s challenges to implement these technologies are in line with current developments.
Dr Peter Sweatman, co-founder of CAVita based in the US, spoke to industry leaders in Auckland and Wellington this week, as a guest of the Ministry of Transport and ITS New Zealand.
He says independent research and funding through universities is a key factor in the way forward rather than relying solely government-led implementation.
In Michigan, Sweatman was previously the director of the University of Michigan’s Transport Research Institute (UMTRI) and was responsible for obtaining key funding for research.
“As director of UMTRI, it was my job to ensure we were growing, and the main part of my job was to win the biggest Department of Transport-funded grants, which was about US$30 million. It gave us the capability to do big field-operation capability tests. It’s about bringing money and expertise into the area.”
Mcity, at the University of Michigan, is one result of that funding. A 13-hectare environment has been established with some of the infrastructure motorists may encounter on regular commutes.
In a year-long project conducted at Mcity, 3,000 vehicles were fitted with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure devices to talk to each other – as well as highway infrastructure systems – in order to evaluate connected and automated vehicles and systems.
Sweatman told Autofile Online: “In creating Mcity we said, ‘let’s design something that really speaks to the fully evolved future of automation, the most demanding situations that we can create. However, we need to be sure the automatic features are going to be safe, so we’ve got a lot of work to do’. Fundamentally, one of the biggest challenges is not one single entity yet has the power to do this. Collaboration is critical.”
Sweatman believes New Zealand and Australia could be key in accelerating growth in the ITS sector – but the technology needs a push. “The environment here and in Australia is different than in the States, and probably the government here can to a degree play a bigger role.”
Current concerns about a standardised frequency – seen as one of the challenges for ITS applications in New Zealand – are being addressed.
“In terms of DSRC issues of frequency, it’s 5.9GHz in the US, and 5.8GHz in Europe and Japan. They are all a little different. New Zealand is the one that’s going to really bring the differential into focus because it imports vehicles from all those places.”