Wellingtonians get chance to ‘test ride’ autonomous vehicle


Wellingtonians will get a unique chance to ‘test ride’ an autonomous shuttle on Wellington’s waterfront today, as Waka Kotahi investigates the potential of autonomous shuttles in our public transport system.

In December 2022, the vehicle’s manufacturer Ohmio was confirmed as one of 24 recipients of the first round of the Waka Kotahi Hoe ki angitū-Innovation Fund. The company received $150,000 to work with Waka Kotahi to develop a new approval process for the use of autonomous vehicle technology.

It is a first step towards enabling vehicles like the Ohmio shuttle, which can hold up to 15 passengers, to operate on our streets.

Dr Deborah Hume, National Manager Multimodal and Innovation for Waka Kotahi says autonomous shuttles could help address the first and last mile gap, which is a way of describing the distance a commuter must travel to get to and from traditional public transport.

“There’s huge potential for autonomous vehicles like Ohmio’s to be part of our public transport system. They are potentially a critical alternative to private vehicles to get Kiwis to and from public transport,” she says.

In addition to providing funding, Hoe ki angitū gives successful applicants access to Waka Kotahi data, transport expertise and help to navigate land transport regulation.

“This project is a great example of the public and private sectors working together on innovative technologies to provide more transport options for New Zealanders that reduce private car use and vehicle emissions,” says Dr Hume.

The new approval process developed through this project will help ensure New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of new technologies while maintaining our robust safety standards”.  

Ohmio is a New Zealand company and the only producer of autonomous public transport vehicles in the Southern Hemisphere. Dr Hume says they have worked on similar regulatory processes in Korea and are already operating several vehicles there.

“An autonomous, on-demand first and last mile solution has never been trialled or implemented in New Zealand. The innovation funding lets Waka Kotahi and Ohmio work together to bring us closer to making this a reality,” says Dr Hume.

The event will allow the public to take a ride in an autonomous shuttle for themselves. Waka Kotahi will also use the event to survey riders and hear about their views of autonomous shuttles before and after they ride the vehicle.

Hoe ki angitū is making $15 million available over two years to support the private and non-government sectors to develop and accelerate innovative transport projects. Round two of the Fund opens for applications on 20 February.

The Ohmio shuttle demonstration is taking place on Wellington’s waterfront, in front of Circa Theatre. Members of the public can ride in the shuttle until 3pm on Monday 13 February and from 10am to 3pm on Tuesday 14 February (weather dependant).

The Hoe ki angitū challenges are designed to meet the Government’s transport goals, including reducing emissions, encouraging mode shift, improving accessible and equitable transport options, decarbonising freight and improving road safety.

A total of $4.2 million was awarded in the first funding round to applicants developing innovative solutions to three specific challenges:

  • accelerating the use of recycled materials and sustainable practices
  • integrating low emission first and last-mile travel solutions
  • providing under-served communities with greater access to transport options.

Round two of the funding was announced on 1 December 2022 and invites applicants to create solutions to three different challenges:

  • making road works safer for workers and other road users
  • reducing the impact of increased freight in urban environments
  • improving safety and efficiency for people using different modes of transport in the same space 

Applications for round two will open on Monday 20 February 2023 and close on Friday 24 March 2023.