Cars, boats and elevators – new ventures in tech

You might not think that the humble elevator has much to do with the future of self-driving cars, but you’d be wrong.

According to Ohmio Research and Development Coordinator Mahmood Hikmet, the fully automated lift, which first became commercially available in 1900, is the forerunner to the autonomous car. Furthermore, it is a kind of inspiration for the Auckland-based company which sees a market for developing self-driving vehicles for controlled environments such as airports, university campuses and elderly rest home villages.

At an Internet of Things (IoT) event in Auckland this week Hikmet explained that there are five levels of autonomous vehicles and level 4 – operationally autonomous vehicles in expected environments – is the level where Ohmio is aiming to be. The step to level 5 – completely autonomous vehicles in every environment - is huge and is the space that global companies such as Google and Volvo are working in.

Ohmio, a subsidiary of the intelligent transport systems company HMI Technologies, has been working with Christchurch Airport on providing a fleet of autonomous vehicles.

Hikmet says there are several challenges facing the company’s development in New Zealand. Among them is legislation, “there is nothing in the law that says you need a person as a driver, but the tricky part is what happens if there is an accident? Who is liable?” he says.

He also points out that it can be difficult to get a Warrant of Fitness if your car doesn’t have a steering wheel.

Another issue is perception – quite simply people don’t trust self-driving cars, but just like the elevator that turned up in 1900, once they actually experience being a passenger in an autonomous vehicle their opinion can change.

While Ohmio is looking to solve the problem of land transport, BoatSecure is working on helping boat owners spend more time on the water. The company is founded by John McDermott, who has developed an IoT solution for monitoring recreational boats, utilising the LoRaWAN network from Spark.

Sensors installed on the boat provide continuous updates, via a smartphone app, on the operational status of critical infrastructure such as the on-board boat battery and the bilge pump. An alert is immediately raised if a problem is detected.

BoatSecure is about to launch commercially, and McDermott is optimistic that there is a large addressable market for his product. He says there are 600,000 water craft in New Zealand, including 10,000 in Auckland moored in marinas and estuaries. In Australia there are 800,000 registered boats and in the U.S there are 12.5 million.

In addition to founding BoatSecure, McDermott runs the IoT meet-ups in Auckland and organised the IoT Day in Auckland this week, which took the form of a ‘show and tell’ for IoT companies operating in the Agitech and transport sectors. McDermott estimates that the number staff employed collectively by the 10 ventures that presented at the event is around 200 people.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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