The world’s earliest self-drive car, dubbed “the first colony” by a team of researchers, is set to arrive in New Zealand next week.
The researchers behind the prototype vehicle say it is more capable than the previous attempts, but has yet to be fully tested and is still in a prototype stage.
The vehicle, dubbed the “MudRunner” by the researchers, has already been tested in the UK and is being tested in a number of US cities.
It is currently being driven on public roads, with the aim of being ready for testing by 2021.
The first fully-fledged test car will be driven by a New Zealander who is a member of the research team, who are also the sole drivers of the car.
“We’ve already had a prototype tested at our facility, so it’s a relatively straightforward process to get a vehicle ready for actual driving,” Dr Paul Gaffney, an associate professor at the University of Bath and the chair of the MudRunner team, told Engadge.
“But the car is going to be a lot more complex than that.”
In the future, it is hoped the team will be able to use the car in commercial applications such as delivery services.
Dr Gaffley said the mud runner was “about a year behind the wheel” and was being developed for a specific application: self-balancing transport.
It will also have to be tested in real-world conditions, including rain, snow, and ice.
The team hopes to eventually get a fully-functional mud runner on public roadways in Australia, where the Mudrunner was tested last year.
Dr Matthew Joly, a professor of engineering at the Australian National University, told the BBC that the mudrunner would not be able “to make it to New York City”.
However, he added, the team was “very excited” about the prospects for the car’s future use.
The MudRunner’s “self-balancers” were designed by Dr Guffney’s team, using a “flatbed” wheel, a “lidless wheel” system that provides stability and steering control, and a combination of a hydraulic system and a battery pack.
The mud runners can be programmed to follow different roads and highways and are also able to respond to road conditions such as temperature, wind, and visibility.
In New Zealand, it was tested in public roads and the team hopes it will be ready for use in 2018.
“The car is being developed by us as a prototype, which is why we need to test it in New York in 2018,” Dr Gafney said.
“If all goes well, we’ll be able test it at the end of this year.”
The car was built at the British Robotics Laboratory, in Oxfordshire, UK.
The car will also be fitted with GPS sensors, and will be tested for the first time in the Australian capital, Canberra, in 2020.
“Our aim is to be ready in 2021,” Dr Joly told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“We’re in the process of putting the mud on the roads.”
The mudrunner will be used in a trial in Canberra, which will involve the team working in an experimental area where the vehicle will have to manoeuvre through “dangerous terrain”, he said.