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Bridges defends transport initiative after failed tech partnership

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 6 days ago Phil Pennington

The National Party leader has defended the running of a mobility project he claimed would revolutionise transport.

a man in a suit and tie: Simon Bridges has promised to set up a National Cancer Agency, if National is elected. © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited Simon Bridges has promised to set up a National Cancer Agency, if National is elected.

The MobilityOS project was a key factor in driving up NZTA's spending on software licensing fees by 75 percent between 2017 and last year, from $4 million to $7m.

Simon Bridges, when he was transport minister, lauded a transportation app launched under the project in Queenstown in 2017.

But that app and related work has now been shelved by the Transport Agency, after spending $5.5m.

It has pulled the plug on a failed partnership with a Silicon Valley company, Machine Zone (MZ), which was agreed without a robust business case by a unit of NZTA, Connected Journeys, which was recently scrapped amid ongoing investigations into how it awarded contracts.

The agency has changed tack to do more data collection and trip prediction, but has also expanded the MobilityOS project budget by another $19.5m.

An independent review criticised how the project ran.

Mr Bridges said as minister he was hands-on and had weekly meetings with NZTA, and knew a bit about the MobilityOS project.

"You do see, regrettably, some things go wrong. I don't dismiss it," he said, adding, however, that NZTA had hundreds of projects on the go.

"You know, you'd expect NZTA to be doing this kind of work, to be exploring some things around technology.

"I believed, and I still do, in the power of technology when it comes to transport."

MZ said working with NZTA would make New Zealand a world-leading country, where all its services - including transport and healthcare - would feed all their data to MZ's autonomous programmes.

The Deloitte review has also raised questions about another NZTA technology project called TransportOS.

This project had seven contract software engineers and nine contract product roles, but had no set directions on what it was doing after seven months of waiting, the review said.

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