Speech to Transtech 96

  • Maurice Williamson

What seemed like science fiction a short while ago is now a reality.

It's driven by computer programmers and technology companies striving to
maintain levels of innovation on 3 monthly cycles where once they could have
rested for a couple of years on their laurels.

This pace of change may create nightmares for the computer insomniacs but it
also forces the rest of industry to be aware of that change and be ready to take
up the new opportunities the change presents.

This no less so in the transport sector.

Every innovation introduced into the marketplace presents an opportunity.

That opportunity may result in a way of reducing the road toll or it may mean
a delivery company can computerise its fleet and have its sales team spend less
time on unproductive driving.

Transport is affected by the way technology impacts on other areas of

If people stay at home to do their banking, their shopping or to access
information on the Internet cars will stay in the garage.

If enough big corporations can create teams of teleworkers, there'll be a
consequent lessening in demand for seats on buses or places in the morning
traffic jam on the motorway.

New Zealand has become increasingly complex as technology advances.

Our attitudes and expectations have changed.

New Zealand was once an out of the way place, accessible by a tiring plane
flight or a long sea voyage.

Technology has changed all of that.

It brings competition to your doorstep but it also means you can compete in
the world at the click of a button rather than having to have a physical
presence in which ever market you chase.

The implications for your business and for transport generally are

Recently, I spoke at a conference in Denver, Colorado.

I was a featured speaker with American Vice President, Al Gore.

The point of this is to say that while we both addressed a few hundred people
seated in a big auditorium, neither of us left home.

The Vice President sat in his office in Washington DC and was linked by a
video signal.

I rose early, went to Telecom's headquarters in Wellington and did the same
thing with a video camera pumping signals up to a satellite and down to

I was back at my desk within 10 minutes of delivering the speech.

What's more, they liked it so much they sent the video tape of it to London
where it was shown at another conference.

What are the implications?

Both Vice President Gore and my self didn't have to buy air tickets; we
didn't hire taxis or limousines; we didn't spend a couple of nights in an
expensive hotel and we didn't buy any PC magazines at the airport news

A lot of people lost out on income.

Multiply that by many thousands of similar occurrences throughout the year
and it starts to mean a big problem for the travel industry.

Technology changes us in many ways.

The advances that allowed me to speak by video-conference to Denver are
becoming available as cheap add-ons for personal computers.

What company is going to fly its staff around the world if it can link them
every day for a few dollars at their desktop PCs?

There are other remarkable changes afoot.

Many of them are still concepts.

Some of them are technologically viable - but not financially.

And some are in operation and quite unbelievable.

New Zealanders Love Technology

New Zealanders love technology.

Anything new on the market here usually sells fast.

We have a very high usage per capita of cell phones, computers and video

However, we do have to choose the technology that will work for us and find
out whether it is cost effective.

Some technology might not be appropriate for transport in New Zealand

It's true we do have congestion in Auckland and even in Wellington and

But our problems are not as horrendous as those in LA or Tokyo.

We need to adapt technology and make it fit New Zealand's transport

Traffic Control - New Zealand Leads the Way

One area where New Zealand leads in technology is in air traffic control.

Some of you may not know that New Zealand put in place the first oceanic air
traffic control system which uses satellites.

We did it because it made sense.

It made air travel safer, more efficient and more cost effective.

Planes are able to tell exactly how close another aircraft is at any point.

It means that planes can travel closer together safely, and that allows for
more traffic.

It is also a very good feeling to know that New Zealand is helping to put in
place the same air traffic control system in Indian air space.

There are also other countries who have expressed interest.

That's a feather in the cap of Airways Corporation of New Zealand.


If we turn from the big technology picture to what's happening on the ground
in transport we come to one of the topics I feel most strongly about -

The technological advances we have already achieved in New Zealand have made
a real difference to New Zealander's lives.

We can all be pleased that the overall road toll is coming down.

We had the lowest number of deaths on the road for the last 12 months than in
any year since 1965.

That was the year when records were first kept and as of last week we've had
51 fewer deaths this year than over the same period last year.

We should be encouraged by that achievement but temper that encouragement
with the knowledge that even a reduced toll still leaves many, many families

Even one death is too many.

Technology is being used to try to reduce this modern plague.

Vehicles are being developed to prevent or reduce the possibility of
accidents - as well as to protect passengers as much as possible if accidents do

Increasingly air bags are installed in cars on both the driver and passenger

Seat belt retractors are found in many cars and ABS braking is standard
equipment in top of the line vehicles.

Australia is looking at making it compulsory for heavy motor vehicles.

Structurally many cars are now designed to collapse and absorb the impact.

Real achievements have been made in the management and maintenance of heavy
vehicles too.

Many trucks have computers which record driving patterns.

Dangerous driving techniques can be spotted and dealt with.

These computers also help in warning about impending mechanical faults.

This is real progress.

Wider Safety Benefits

There are wider safety benefits which are a direct result of new technology.

Speed cameras and sophisticated blood testing catch those who are offending
and warn others not to offend.

Search and Rescue techniques using Global Positioning Systems or GPS have
made it much easier to find ships in distress or aeroplanes that have gone down.

Satellites are used to pin point exactly where stranded people are.

Hikers can take a GPS device into the bush with them and the cell phone can
be a useful safety tool.

No doubt much of the safety technology already in use overseas will be used
in New Zealand before long.

Drowsy driver sensors can tell when a driver swerves out of the lane.

Unauthorised driver sensors can detect if the driver is over the legal
alcohol limit and the car won't even start.

In Japan trains are floating above the ground, held in place by a magnetic

They are inches above the rail; they move at up to 300 kilometres per hour
and they do not derail.

Let's not forget, however, that while technology is making a huge difference
to all modes of transport, we still have to keep on plugging away at individual

Irresponsibility and carelessness will continue to affect our lives,
particularly in regard to the road toll.

That is why the Government has made a commitment to safety by putting $50
million into a road safety package that will span a 5 year period.

Those heart wrenching advertisements on television come out of this fund.

Lets not forget that television is an ideal form of technology through which
we can reach many road users.


One other area that benefits greatly from the latest technological
developments is catching people who break the law.

Enforcement is the polite term.

I have already mentioned that roads are progressively becoming safer places
because of vehicle development as well as sophisticated blood testing devices
and speed cameras and laser speed guns.

We can also make sure people are registering their cars by checking bar codes
on window screens and vehicle identification numbers.

It also helps to weed out the stolen cars.

At the moment we may be losing about $80 million a year from people who are
not paying their road user charges.

It is money that should be going back into the roads, and into road safety.

Some heavy motor vehicles and other diesel powered vehicles are using our
roads without paying their fair share.

They are cheating the whole community.

Bar-coding has been a major step forward in detecting non-compliance.

Police - and there are now an extra 21 on the roads working on this issue -
are able to tell straight away whether a road user charge licence is valid.

They can also tell if they are paying the right amount.

I assure you that usually they are not paying too much.

Interestingly enough computerised weighing and stock control now means truck
owners can carry exactly the amount they pay for in road user charges.

That makes for financial efficiency in businesses.

It also ensures that the vehicle is loaded within its safety limits.

At the moment the Land Transport Safety Authority is developing an integrated
computer system that can keep track of road user charges, motor vehicle licences
and vehicle inspection certificates.

It means they will know who is paying what and how.

This should be fully operational in 1998.

Transport Operations and Systems

The operations and systems which sustain transport have become more efficient
as a result of technological advances in New Zealand.

Crash analysis has become much more effective.

Increasingly we can answer who, when, what, why and how.

Statistics New Zealand has invaluable information that can also be used in
transport planning.

Global Positioning Systems are being used for fleet management in many

They keep track of commercial vehicles and what they are doing.

It is also a way to keep track of goods and that's essential as our global
economy becomes more complex.

Already customers of the American Federal Express company can log onto the
Internet and track their goods as they pass through different hubs and continue
to the customers.

You don't even have to fill out forms any more.

The company offers free software for a personal computer that prints the way
bill, complete with unique bar code.

This use of technology isn't limited to small packages.

Importers are increasingly using Electronic Data Interchange for containers
and other unitised cargo coming into the country.

All of these issues fall into the category of Intelligent Transportation
Systems or ITS as most of you will be calling it.

And ITS includes Automatic Traffic Management Systems or ATMS.

Auckland is pointing to what is likely to come.

It is in the process of developing an Automatic Traffic Management System
that will provide for greater co-ordination of traffic movement.

At the central traffic centre television screens will show exactly what is
happening on the roads, how fast traffic is moving, where the problem areas are
and when accidents happen.

It will be possible to manage traffic lights and to control the flow of
traffic entering the motorway system.

It is an interesting aside that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, started
out his commercial life as a teenager, marketing a software program he'd written
that analysed the results of a traffic flow counter on a Seattle street.

So we have had traffic flow systems in place for years and these will become
more and more sophisticated as we introduce technology to the task.

The Economy

Anything that makes transport more effective at a reasonable cost is going to
have economic benefits for business and the whole community.

People stuck in traffic jams are not being productive.

Goods not being delivered on time is unproductive and inefficient and not
meeting the needs of the client.

While advances cut down on these obstacles they also allow those attuned to
technology to jump their competitors and offer a better service.

The advantages are not solely for the users of transport.

Business these days must stay abreast of technology because whole business
sectors are being re-invented before our eyes.

Typewriter companies existed for a hundred years and were wiped out in

Manual calculating machines and cash register companies had to re-invent
themselves or perish.

The advent of cheap air travel all but wiped out ocean cruises.

All of these developments led to greater opportunities as they closed doors
on old ones.

They also improved efficiency.

Transport efficiency includes the capacity of our transport systems to move
goods and people when and where required, in a cost effective way.

The economy, transport and technology are all intertwined.

We must make sure we take advantage of technological developments and put the
right systems in place.

Adapting Technology to New Zealand

One of the real challenges facing us today is adapting technology to New
Zealand circumstances.

One question that keeps coming up is how we are to pay for the roads?

It is a subject we have to tackle.

Is the system we are using now appropriate?

Should we be looking at paying for roads as we do electricity?

We could use computer chips on cars that are electronically read to get the
amount of use on the roads.

Should there be an advantage for travelling in off peak hours?

Certainly the technology is increasingly available to allow road pricing by
place and time to be introduced.

The question is do we want to use it? And is it economically viable?

The fact is that technology knows no barriers.

It is part and parcel of being part of the global community.

It has already made a vast difference to the way we relate to the rest of the

New Zealand and Australia have already introduced electronic advance
passenger information systems which have reduced the time taken in arrival
processing Trans- Tasman.

This may be able to be applied to other countries.

Traditional passports may soon become a thing of the past.

Smart cards with unique identifying features such as biometric systems, which
are activated by the passengers hand geometry, or fingerprints are the future

These aren't might be's; the technology's in use already.

An optical card is already being used between Canada and the United States.

The US is allowing its frequent travellers to use smart card with biometric
data to pass through immigration at selected airports.

Ticketless travel is not too far off in the future.

All the information needed will be in a computer system or it could be in a
microchip card that the passenger produces.


With technology rushing ahead at breathtaking speed it is important to
remember that these developments do raise issues which are crucial for us as

We must ensure that personal freedom is not limited by technological

We have to be aware of civil rights issues which may be raised.

Many people distrust the use of technology and the changes that it brings
unless the benefits are made clear first.

The world will adopt technological advances with open arms only if the
benefits are obvious.

There are many salespersons knocking on doors offering the solution to
problems that just don't exist.

Luckily for technology's advance, there are more still who have researched a
particular industry and applied the intelligent use of technology to make it
more efficient.

The trick is to recognise the difference between the two.

So it is important to keep in mind that technology is there for us to use in
the way that suits us New Zealanders best.

We must decide what we want to use and what is wiser to discard.

Technology must be our servant not our master.

The rewards for those who understand that are limitless.

As a country, we must understand it too.