29 Apr 2017

Driverless cars just around the bend ... overseas

12:06 pm on 29 April 2017

Driverless cars could be used as early as 2020 but not in New Zealand, a car futurist says.

Wellingtonians wil get a chance to view the  driverless car Budii this weekend as part of the Motor Trade Association's centenary.

Wellingtonians wil get a chance to view the driverless car Budii this weekend as part of the Motor Trade Association's centenary. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Wellingtonians will be among the first in Australasia to get a glimpse at what driving could be like in the future, when more than 150 vehicles from the past, present and future go on display this weekend as part of the Motor Trade Association's centenary.

The centrepiece of the car show is the one-off concept car Budii, worth about $2.5 million, made by Swiss car manufacturer Rinspeed and designed by New Zealander Alain Brideson.

The car is autonomous, electric and intelligent, and its steering wheel is attached to a robotic arm.

The company's chief executive Frank Rinderknecht said the car gives people an idea of what is possible, and its technology could be available by 2020.

"Automated driving on highways where there's no interaction between drivers is feasible, but only on selected stretches and then gradually it moves into urban areas," he said.

Rinspeed CEO Frank Rinderknecht

Rinspeed chief executive Frank Rinderknecht Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

He dismissed safety concerns, saying human error was what killed the majority of people on New Zealand roads each year.

"People speeding, people not paying attention, people drinking - and a machine will be much, much more reliable."

It was, however, likely to be "a while" before the cars would be on New Zealand roads, Mr Rinderknecht said.

Telsa co-founder Ian Wright is involved in the event, and said driverless technology would not be ready by 2020.

"I think this full autonomous thing is a very long way away. I think it's a much harder problem."

Mr Wright is now the chief executive of Wrightspeed Powertrains, the company tasked with replacing the engines in Wellington's trolley bus fleet with electric turbines.

The "Car Show of the Century" is open to the public at TSB Arena this weekend.

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