The 13th ITS Asia Pacific Forum and Exhibition 2014 was a chance to discuss transportation technology in a forum held at Auckland’s expansive Aotea Centre.

Intelligent transport systems (ITS) are the information, data processing, communication, and sensor technologies applied to vehicles, including trains, aircraft and ships as well as transport infrastructure and users. New Zealand implemented ITS 10 years ago and already has many examples of ITS in operation according to the Ministry of Transport. These include real-time systems to tell public transport users when their bus or train can be expected to arrive; variable message signs and ramp signalling on motorways; advanced driver assistance systems such as automated parking and blind spot warning systems; and systems to help aircraft follow safe routes to and from airports. As computer technology becomes less expensive and more powerful, new and emerging ITS technologies are expected to be deployed in New Zealand including autonomous car, truck and aircraft technologies.

For the first time in April 2014, the ITS Asia Pacific Forum and Exhibition was held in New Zealand. ITS NZ in partnership with Tourism New Zealand and Auckland Convention Bureau bid for the hosting rights, preparing a professional bid document that secured the winning of the 13th annual event. Almost 400 delegates and speakers from 28 countries around the region, 70 per cent of them from overseas, descended on Auckland for the forum. Organised by Intelligent Transportation Systems New Zealand and hosted by ITS NZ and ITS Asia Pacific the three day conference was held at the Aotea Centre in Auckland.  The purpose built centre, in the heart of downtown Auckland, features eight rooms including the ASB Theatre, an auditorium which can hold more than 2000 delegates. The theme of the meeting and exhibition was to discuss the role of technology in improving transport safety, including smart transport such as connected vehicles. The centre easily catered for plenary sessions alongside the exhibition.

The forum was an opportunity for New Zealand to network and share details of its ITS knowledge and experience with peers from all over the world, according to the organiser. Examples of the country’s ITS highlights seen by international guests included New Zealand’s fully adaptive and comprehensive motorway management systems and the Auckland Harbour Bridge Tidal Flow barrier system.  It was also a chance for the  Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Transport Agency to engage with local and international ITS practitioners on key strategic documents that will drive the direction and implementation of  ITS across NZ.  The Ministry of Transport have since released the New Zealand Intelligent Transport System Technology Action Plan 2014-18, Transport in the Digital Age.

Delegates were welcomed on the night before the opening with drinks at the nearby Auckland Art Gallery, a historic building first opened in 1888 and housing New Zealand’s largest art collection numbering more than 15,000 works. A gala dinner was enjoyed on the first evening, at the Auckland Town Hall, a prominent civic landmark on the city’s main street and just moments from the Aotea Centre and hotels. Outside of the meeting rooms delegates explored some of Auckland’s unique attractions. There was a chance to get on board an America’s Cup sail boat to race, city tours and shopping trips and for this group of visitors, a look at New Zealand’s state-of-the-art Joint Transportation Operations Centre and iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. Though the conference was only a three-day event, most delegates stayed more than five nights to fit in extra activities.

Delegates gave the organisers of the forum an overall score of 85 per cent, a reflection of New Zealand’s ability to mount and host such an event. The facilities, food and hospitality were also rated very highly by the international delegates who attended. All exhibition booth space was sold out with 80 per cent taken by exhibitors from international ITS organisations. This created an exciting opportunity for both New Zealand and the global ITS community to engage and develop business partnerships to advance ITS applications globally. Attendees said though it was the first global ITS conference held in New Zealand it was easily one of the best international shows within New Zealand’s transportation engineering industry.