Kiwi company's self-driving vehicle helps promote 5G

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 March 2019, 8:43p.m.
Spark's demo of a driver-less Ohmio vehicle controlled via 5G at Wynyard Quarter. (Photo / Jason Oxenham)

Spark's latest 5G showcase involved a self-driving electric vehicle from Kiwi company Ohmio.

The vehicle used Spark's network to whizz around coned-off streets at Auckland's Wynyard Quarter, where Spark maintains a small test 5G cellular network.

The Ohmio was summoned via a tablet, and drove itself to the pickup point before carrying its passengers on a pre-programmed route.

Ohmio head of research and development Mahmood Hikmet told Larry Williams the car only followed a pre-programmed journey.

"It works in a very similar way to how a tram would work, but instead of tracks on the ground, the tracks are virtual tracks that are in software."

He says the virtual tracks can be very easily changed through the software. 

At one point there was drama, as Ohmio's LIDAR sensor (an invisible, pulsed laser beam that plays a similar role to radar) picked up a knocked-out-of-place road cone and brought the vehicle to an emergency stop - which was not too traumatic as the Ohmio was only travelling at 7km (its arbitrary speed limit for today as AT staff looked on; it can pull 25km ordinarily).

Hikmet says the 5G connection with the car is about 10-times faster than 4G.

"That's with a big asterix for me, because the parts that we're most interested in from 5G is the communication from peer to peer." 

He says with a pair-to-pair 5G connection, the signal doesn't have to travel as far compared to a 4G network.




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