This group’s focus and remit is to work outside of the business where we need to and to focus on step change opportunities, understand them and how they may apply to our business as a threat or as an opportunity
“In many respects Christchurch International Airport is a small city and so we can provide a fantastic testing ground for initiatives such as this, and also learn from the outcomes along the way.”
Todd Cassie, knowledge and information technology manager at the airport, explains the backdrop that led him and his team to be involved in the first on-road research trial of an autonomous electric vehicle in New Zealand.
The Smart Shuttle, manufactured in France, was unveiled to the public last week. The vehicle, which can carry up to 15 people and has no steering wheel, will initially be traversing in a closed road at the airport.
Last year, Cassie was in the initial meeting with HMI Technologies and a number of other parties, preparing to bring the vehicle to New Zealand for testing.
“Right from the start we saw this as an excellent opportunity to be involved in this project,” he tells CIO New Zealand.
“The project evolved quickly and I have been involved in managing logistics, locations - including testing sites and venues, event planning and accommodation for the project team, as we moved into the first phase of actual testing.”
Autonomous vehicles will open up the market to a whole new set of markets whilst ensuring a high degree of safety on our roads.
''In 10 years and beyond, the self-drive tourism market will be a significant contributor to the local economy. It’s likely that a large number of these tourists will not have a driver’s license," he points out.
“As the gateway to the South Island, we have a vested interest in tourism growth and sustainability. Autonomous vehicles will open up the market to a whole new set of markets whilst ensuring a high degree of safety on our roads.”
“Obviously as an airport, car parking and public transportation are major considerations in any of our forward planning,” he explains.
“We need to understand the likely impact on these technologies and plan accordingly. For instance, do we build more car park buildings now or consider other options?”
Cassie says there are 6000 people working at Christchurch airport every day.
“We need to move a good chunk of these staff between carparks and their place of work. Currently this occurs primarily with diesel powered buses.”
Opportunities and threats
Cassie talks about his parallel responsibility alongside his primary roles of digital development and leading the ICT functions at the airport.
“I have been tasked with development of a group focussed on technologies and innovations, to challenge the status quo,” he says.
"This group’s focus and remit is to work outside of the business where we need to and to focus on step change opportunities, understand them and how they may apply to our business as a threat or as an opportunity,'' he says.
“We absolutely accept that we need external help in this space, and we see that partnering with others is the key to success.”
An example of this is the recent AEV research trial.
“Pilots are a great way for us to get involved in new technologies to gain the benefit of others expertise, but to also give something back to those that we partner with,” he states.
The trial, among others, aims to gather information on the infrastructure and operating requirements of autonomous vehicles when used at the airport.
On a broader scale, it will also help develop information that demonstrates the safety of autonomous vehicles, both for use at the airport and throughout New Zealand.
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