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Flying vehicle trialled in Canterbury

Google co-founder (and now Alphabet CEO) Larry Page unveiled his autonomous electric flying car, Cora on Monday.

In 2016, Page invested in two flying car start-ups. One of those was Kitty Hawk, a California based company, who is developing Cora in conjunction with Zephyr Airworks, a New Zealand operator.

Sebastian Thrun, Kitty Hawk chief executive, is a computer scientist who founded a Google research and development facility, which developed Google’s self-driving car project.

Fred Reid, Zephyr Airworks boss, has been chief executive of Virgin America and president of both Lufthansa and Delta Air Lines.

Formerly Zee.Aero, Zephyr Airworks is Kitty Hawk’s operator in New Zealand, although the companies haven’t put a timeline on when it will be available publicly.

Both companies are convinced this new type of vehicle is the future of transport. Reid said to Stuff that the concept would be commonplace “10 or 20 years from now”. Thrun said road traffic was incredibly congested and there was no space to dramatically increase road capacity.

A timeline on the website shows how far things have come over the years, from the electric aircraft’s first hover in 2011, first self-piloted transition in 2014, having a real person fly safely in the air taxi in August 2017, to beginning flight testing in New Zealand in October.

Specifications

The flying vehicle is intended for use as part of a transportation service instead of sale to individual users. It’s built to use autonomous software, and uses 12 lift fans for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) like a helicopter, so there’s no need for a runway.

According to the company’s FAQs, Cora is equipped with three independent flight-computers that each calculate its location. If there’s an issue with one of them, Cora can still reliably navigate. The fans and propellers are also electric, they can operate independently. An issue with one has no effect on the others.

Cora can operate between 500 ft to 3000 ft above the ground. It’s wingspan is around 11 meters. The air taxi’s range is currently around 100 kilometres and can reach a speed of 180 kilometres per hour.

What does this mean for New Zealand?

Airways New Zealand announced yesterday it is piloting future technologies needed to support the arrival of autonomous flying vehicles in New Zealand airspace.

The air navigation services provider will develop a nationwide unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) traffic management system, known as UTM, to enable drone activity across New Zealand airspace as well as integrate these vehicles safely into the national air traffic network.

Airways CEO Graeme Sumner says, “There is no doubt that technology is evolving and Airways’ role is to enable safe and flexible access to our airspace to allow these new industries to thrive.

“New Zealand’s regulatory environment and relatively uncongested airspace make us an attractive option for new operators. We are looking for ways to safely support more complex operations and facilitate new entrants, including the Zephyr Airworks’ autonomous aircraft, into our skies.”

Mayor of Christchurch Lianne Dalziel says the project is a perfect fit with our new city of opportunity – a city where we can explore and realise ideas.

“I have had the privilege of seeing the self-piloted air taxi and I am very excited about what it offers for future generations – to live and move in a way that has never been possible before.”

“This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport eco system to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet. This is a fully electric aircraft that rises into the air like a helicopter, flies like a plane and then lands again like a helicopter.

“Christchurch is committed to becoming carbon neutral and we are embracing future technologies in the areas of future transport, future foods, Antarctica and space technology, technical adventure clothing, social enterprise – we are open for business and making strong strides in these areas. This project is a great example of our commitment to be prepared for the future and I am grateful to Zephyr Airworks for partnering with Christchurch and Canterbury.”

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PM launches Christchurch car sharing service

 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Mayor Lianne Dalziel have officially launched Christchurch’s first fully battery powered electric car sharing service.

Christchurch City Council

The Council, the Ara Institute, Aurecon, Beca, the Canterbury District Health Board, Chapman Tripp, Christchurch International Airport, Environment Canterbury, Jacobs, Meridian Energy, Tonkin and Taylor, and Warren and Mahoney are the foundation members of the scheme, which is being run for them by Yoogo Share.

From today other Christchurch businesses and the public can access the battery electric vehicles in the service’s fleet.

Yoogo Share will see a pure EV fleet of 100 cars, ten hubs and 100 chargers made available around Christchurch. Twelve key businesses with 3,000 drivers are already working with the Yoogo Share cars, removing 115 combustion engine vehicles from their fleets. 

Mayor Lianne Dalziel says she is proud that Christchurch is the first city in New Zealand, and one of the few cities internationally, that has a battery electric car sharing service.

“Our purpose here today may not have been in any blueprint, but it is as much a part of our regeneration as is any project that was envisaged. It is about who we are as a city – New Zealand’s 21st century Garden City putting sustainability to the fore.

“This service will deliver improved environmental and health outcomes and help the Council achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030,” the Mayor says.

“It’s a smart and sustainable way for businesses and for local residents to get around town and I’m excited to see the service grow. This is way of the future.’’

 Prime Minister Ardern says encouraging the use of electric vehicles is an important part of the Government’s plan for New Zealand to become carbon neutral by 2050.

“It’s great we could help Christchurch lead the way with this innovative car sharing scheme,’’ she says.

Christchurch City Council

Yoogo Share General Manager Kirsten Corson says the company is looking forward to opening up the car share service to the public.

The first stage of the car sharing service has started with Hyundai Ioniq and BMWi3 vehicles now available at hubs in the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu car park, the West End car park, and at Christchurch International Airport.

In April, further hubs will be added at The Crossing car park, the Ara Institute, Canterbury University, Papanui and Fendalton libraries, and the Lyttelton Community Centre.

“This is an exciting new transport service powered by electricity that is largely generated from renewable energy,’’ says Kevin Crutchley, the Council’s Resource Efficiency Manager and project manager for the scheme.

“The result is a service with zero tail pipe emissions that will both reduce our city’s greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, which will have positive health benefits for the residents of Christchurch,’’ he says.

The Christchurch Agency for Energy Trust was a foundation funding supporter for the service, providing a grant towards the electrical and charging infrastructure for the hub roll-out.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority has provided funding towards stage two of the service through its Low Emission Vehicles contestable fund.

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Chch woman awarded $28,000

A Christchurch woman has been awarded $28,000 after the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal found defects in her Audi A6 had been concealed.

The Tribunal ruling stated that the latent defects in Joanna Fisher’s Audi A6 were deliberately covered up.

The defects were discovered during a warrant of fitness check in 2017, a year after Fisher purchased the vehicle from Chris Bird Motor Company.

The tribunal accepted that the car company’s managing director, Chris Bird, was not aware of the defects when Fisher purchased the vehicle.

Archibalds, another Christchurch motor company, discovered a “sophisticated” cover up of faults when carrying out the warrant of fitness.

Archibalds’ technician found the seat belt pre-tensioners were not plugged in and the two front airbags also had altered wiring.

“The vehicle’s wiring had been altered to mask these faults,” the tribunal stated.

“The altered wiring was, according to Archibalds, ‘tricking the airbag system into registering that it was functioning correctly”, the tribunal found.

“This meant the warning light on the dashboard identifying a problem with the airbags was suppressed.”

Chris Bird then complained to the New Zeaalnd Transport Agency (NZTA) because the vehicle has been issued with two warrants of fitness prior to Fisher purchased the vehicle.

“The tribunal’s assessor … observed that if this test had been done properly when the vehicle was inspected on entry into New Zealand, then the defect would have been picked up.

“The NZTA report suggests that if the seatbelt defect was discovered then it is probable the airbag issues would also have been found at the same time. The NZTA report concluded that neither of the earlier warrants of fitness should have been issued for the vehicle.”

The tribunal accepted Bird’s evidence he had been unaware of the defective seatbelts and airbags. 

Fisher was entitled to reject the Audi and to a refund of $24,979. She was also entitled to a refund of Archibalds’ invoice for $3279. 

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Luxury car dealer lands in Christchurch

Dutton Garage has opened its first New Zealand showroom in Christchurch.

The Dutton Garage in Christchurch

Dutton Garage is an Australian automotive institution supplying some of the rarest and most collectible cars to the world. 

The luxury and classic car dealership boasts an extensive collections of classic vehicles from some of the world’s most exotic manufacturers, including New Zealand’s largest group of Ferraris.

They also use no brokers so there is no middle man.

The dealership is locally owned by Royden Mauger who has worked for the Dutton brand as a buyer for over 20 years but has now taken on the challenge of bringing the brand to New Zealand.

Mauger told Stuff.co.nz that when he was offered the chance of setting up a Dutton car dealership in New Zealand he chose Christchurch over Auckland. 

Not only was it his home town, but it has the best classic car culture in the country, he said.

“In a business sense it doesn’t matter where I am. It’s global. We’d have the biggest collection of classic and luxury cars in the country. We can source them from anywhere and deliver them anywhere,” Mauger continued.

The showroom will have an official opening later this summer.

 

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Christchurch opens more lanes on new motorway

Crews on Christchurch’s Western Belfast Bypass prepare to open more lanes of the new road this month.

The five-kilometre highway is a new four lane stretch of road extending the Christchurch Northern Motorway between Belfast and Johns Rd.

Traffic is slowly being allowed onto the new bypass after an open day on October 29 where around 10,000 walkers, cyclists and runners took to the road.

NZTA said that the bypass being opened in stages allows the project team to complete the final parts of the road, including connecting the bypass to the existing road network and carrying out surfacing work on the on and off ramps.

“There are speed restrictions in place in the area, however it is important that all road users play their part and stay focused to keep everyone safe” says Transport Agency Principal Project Manager, Geoff Griffiths. 

All lanes of the bypass are expected to open to traffic by November 17 (Show Weekend), but the final low-noise asphalt surfacing work will not happen until spring 2018.

Once complete, the bypass will reduce congestion and travel times and provide a better and safer link throughout greater Christchurch, says Mr Griffiths.

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Previous owner leaves dealership under cloud

Nigel Thompson has quit a car dealership business amid allegations of misconduct.

As revealed by Stuff.co.nz, the longstanding dealer used to run one of the largest car yards in Christchurch under the name “Nigel Thompson Motor Company”.

The business has reportedly had financial issues. In November last year former Kiwis coach, Frank Endacott and his son, took a 50 per cent share in the business helping to pay creditors and provide working capital.

Stuff reports Thompson left the business in September and the remaining shares were transferred to the Endacotts.

It also reports the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Inland Revenue have confirmed that they are launching an inquiry.

In a statement to Stuff, Frank Endacott said the family would keep the business running on their own. The car yard would operate under the Nigel Thompson name for the time being but is planning to rebrand in the near-future, he said.

Thompson has allegedly formed an association the Aranui-based Celebration Centre church. The associated trust is opening a yard where Thompson will be an employee, says Stuff. The profits from the car operation will go directly to the local community, the church says.

Church spokesman, Corey Watkinson, said to Stuff that he was aware of investigations into Thompson but was not concerned about the claims about his activities.

The church, a registered charity, has an income of about $1 million a year from tithes and donations.

Thompson said in a statement to Stuff that he was “unaware” of the ongoing investigations and the commercial relationship with the Endacotts “was ended by agreement”.

“The terms of the agreement are commercially sensitive and confidential as between the parties save as to record that all parties agree that any disputes . . . are settled.”

Stuff reports Thompson has denied any allegations of dishonest conduct. 

To read the full story, click here.

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Motorcentral launches new car search site

Christchurch based software company, Motorcentral, have launched a new website designed to help you find your next car easier.

Need A Car (www.needacar.co.nz) allows customers to search more than 22,000 cars throughout New Zealand.

Using more than fifty different variables, such as colour, safety features and fuel economy, Shane Breckon, project lead, believes its ‘the easiest and most comprehensive car search in the market”.

Setting Need A Car out from the rest, it also has a built-in “lifestyle search” which can match vehicles to people based on their individual lifestyle. It allows users to figure out what car might best fit their need and “to get introduced to cars they may not have known existed,” adds Breckon.

Customers can also apply for finance, get accurate quotes on additional products like delivery and insurances and be alerted when the price of a vehicle drops.

Unlike other car-search websites, the vehicles featured on Need A Car are from trusted dealers only, which allows for “greater protection for consumers” states Breckon.

The site also displays feedback from more than 7,000 recent car buyers via Motorcentral’s BuyerScore system, including comments on the customer service being received from dealers.

The Need A Car website currently has 22,000 vehicles for sale from more than 400 dealers.

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Production facility for autonomous vehicles in Christchurch

An Auckland company has announced it will establish a production facility to build autonomous vehicles in Christchurch.

Ohmio Automotion launched in Christchurch yesterday with the company showcasing three shuttle buses, which feature self-driving vehicle technology.

Fully operational prototypes of the electric Ohmio Hop shuttles carried passengers including school children as they performed on a circuit around the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Ohmio claims to be one of the first companies whose shuttles can form a connected convoy.

An Ohmio autonomous bus outside the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Ohmio vehicles include self-mapping artificial intelligence. Once they have completed their route once, they are able to self-drive the route over and over.

A range of four Ohmio models is planned for production before 2019, the vehicles will range in size from small to large shuttles and freight pods and vehicles will be customisable to suit their customer. All models will be built around the innovative technology developed by parent company HMI Technologies, a technology company that specialises in Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).

Richard Harris of HMI Technologies says that he expects the autonomous vehicles would operate well in a confined area, when fully introduced.

“I can imagine them moving around a set space, perhaps a CBD, picking up and dropping people off, rather than shooting out to the airport or somewhere further away.”

HMI has been developing and manufacturing ITS solutions for 15 years, their customers include governments and transport agencies. Their technology includes electronic signs, sensors and software for monitoring transport to aid management of urban and rural transport environments, making transport safer and more efficient.

Being in New Zealand offers the new company a formidable advantage, explains Mohammed Hikmet, founder of HMI Technologies. 

“The testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles elsewhere is slowed down by legislation or requires special permits. Here in New Zealand, the government already allows for testing of driverless vehicles. That gives Ohmio an advantage as we scale up and develop our technology, especially as we understand regulations here and in Australia.”

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel is excited by the Ohmio technology and what it will mean for the city’s future direction.

“And they have done it here in Christchurch where we are seizing the opportunity to become a testbed for emerging technologies. We won’t be swamped by disruption – we will embrace it, learn from it and turn it on its head,” says the Mayor.

“This could help write a regulatory framework for the roads and the signals that provide guidance to the vehicles. We can set the standards for NZ and the world.”

 

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Pure electric car-sharing platform for Christchurch

The largest transition of combustion engines to pure electric shared vehicles in the Southern Hemisphere is set to get underway in Christchurch from November.

Canterbury organisations and residents will soon have access to a pool of 100 pure electric vehicles, only one of a few cities internationally to offer a 100 per cent electric-powered car share service.

Kiwi fleet management company, Yoogo, was selected by the Christchurch City Council to implement the service.

Yoogo’s Hyundai and BMW EVs.

Kirsten Corson, general manager of Yoogo, says the pure electric car sharing model breaks down barriers around cost and charging infrastructure making pure electric vehicles accessible and affordable.

“Cantabrians will pay for the time they use the car and Yoogo takes care of everything else. Users can simply book online and access vehicles via the Yoogo app or swipe card,” says Corson.

 The service will be available for Council, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch Airport, some specified businesses as well as the general public.

Initially the service will launch 70 electric vehicles across three city hubs in late November with 30 additional vehicles to follow in February 2018 across ten locations in total.

Kevin Crutchley, Council’s Resource Efficiency Manager and project manager for this city-wide scheme, says “This new, innovative, 100 per cent battery electric transport service is an exciting development for Christchurch. New Zealand’s electricity is mostly generated from renewable energy so this electric vehicle offering will reduce our city’s carbon emissions. Also using a transport service with zero tail pipe emissions will improve air quality and have positive health benefits for the residents of Christchurch.”

Meridian Energy will be providing the electricity for the scheme. Neal Barclay, their general manager says his company is a proud partner.

“As New Zealand’s largest generator of renewable energy, Meridian is excited to work with like-minded businesses to increase the use of pure electric vehicles and reduce our country’s transport emissions.”

 Pure electric vehicles to be used will initially include Hyundai Ioniq and BMWi3 vehicles.

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Autonomous shuttle trial begins

New Zealand’s first on-road trial of a fully autonomous shuttle began at Christchurch Airport this morning. The EV Smart Shuttle will carry 15 people and has no steering wheel.

“Autonomous electric vehicles are part of our future. They are coming, ready or not, and I’d rather be ready,” said Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel in a statement. The trial is in partnership with intelligent transport systems provider HMI Technologies.

Christchurch Airport CEO Malcolm Jones said that airport staff are keen to see how autonomous shuttles will operate at the airport, and how people will interact with the technology. “We want to explore the possibility of deploying autonomous vehicles to assist people moving around our campus efficiently and sustainably,” he added.

Dave Verma, director of Australasian driverless vehicle technologies, emphasised the importance of both getting hands-on public experience with autonomous vehicles and showcasing the technology to both commercial operators and the government. “We want the New Zealand public and students to have the opportunity to participate and provide feedback on the experience,” he said.

The trial will begin in the next few weeks on private roads on the airport campus and is expected to take at least two years.

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Levanti lands on NZ shores

The Maserati Levante has arrived in New Zealand with the all-new SUV now in Winger Maserati in Auckland and Euromarque Maserati in Christchurch.

The covers came off the Levante at the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show and more than 200 confirmed orders are already in its New Zealand and Australian account. The vehicle is set to break the record set by the Ghibli as the fastest selling new Maserati to enter the New Zealand market.

In anticipation of its arrival, Maserati has undertaken a major upgrade of its national dealer network, with the new Winger Maserati dealership opening in Auckland and Euromarque Maserati about to open its superb new facility in Christchurch. This will ensure that the growing family of Maserati owners enjoy the same exclusive, personal customer service enjoyed by the existing owners.

The Levante arrives in New Zealand in three versions, all powered by a 202 kW Turbo Diesel Engine, driving through an eight speed automatic gearbox to the Maserati Q4 intelligent four wheel drive system which, when allied to the standard Skyhook adjustable air suspension with a total ride range of eight centimeters and five different drive modes, enables the Levante to maintain Maserati’s reputation for on road ability and, at the same time, give the Levante level a of off road ability that has not been previously offered by Maserati.

The Levante Turbo Diesel at $136,990 plus delivery and dealer costs and two differently focused variants, the Levante Sport and the Levante Luxury, both priced at $155,990 plus delivery and dealer costs. The new model is on sale in Maserati dealers with the first deliveries now on the road.

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