An Auckland company has announced it will establish a production facility to build autonomous vehicles in Christchurch.
Ohmio Automotion launched in Christchurch yesterday with the company showcasing three shuttle buses, which feature self-driving vehicle technology.
Fully operational prototypes of the electric Ohmio Hop shuttles carried passengers including school children as they performed on a circuit around the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Ohmio claims to be one of the first companies whose shuttles can form a connected convoy.
Ohmio vehicles include self-mapping artificial intelligence. Once they have completed their route once, they are able to self-drive the route over and over.
A range of four Ohmio models is planned for production before 2019, the vehicles will range in size from small to large shuttles and freight pods and vehicles will be customisable to suit their customer. All models will be built around the innovative technology developed by parent company HMI Technologies, a technology company that specialises in Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).
Richard Harris of HMI Technologies says that he expects the autonomous vehicles would operate well in a confined area, when fully introduced.
“I can imagine them moving around a set space, perhaps a CBD, picking up and dropping people off, rather than shooting out to the airport or somewhere further away.”
HMI has been developing and manufacturing ITS solutions for 15 years, their customers include governments and transport agencies. Their technology includes electronic signs, sensors and software for monitoring transport to aid management of urban and rural transport environments, making transport safer and more efficient.
Being in New Zealand offers the new company a formidable advantage, explains Mohammed Hikmet, founder of HMI Technologies.
“The testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles elsewhere is slowed down by legislation or requires special permits. Here in New Zealand, the government already allows for testing of driverless vehicles. That gives Ohmio an advantage as we scale up and develop our technology, especially as we understand regulations here and in Australia.”
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel is excited by the Ohmio technology and what it will mean for the city’s future direction.
“And they have done it here in Christchurch where we are seizing the opportunity to become a testbed for emerging technologies. We won’t be swamped by disruption – we will embrace it, learn from it and turn it on its head,” says the Mayor.
“This could help write a regulatory framework for the roads and the signals that provide guidance to the vehicles. We can set the standards for NZ and the world.”