Driverless shuttle firm inks $20m China deal
A driverless shuttle firm that promoted itself in New Zealand has been lured to China in a joint venture deal.
Ohmio Automotion has twice staged trials in Christchurch, where a spokesman said it would set up manufacturing.
Christchurch Airport has been trialling an Ohmio self-drive vehicle with the aim of eventually using one to transport passengers from car parks to the terminal.
The Christchurch City Council has a media statement on its website reporting that a locally made driverless vehicle had joined the trial, but hopes of local manufacture appear to have been dashed by the latest announcement.
Melbourne-based Ohmio chief executive Dean Zabrieszach said the Chinese city of Heshan would provide a factory as part of a $20 million joint venture.
‘‘When we recently signed the deal to sell 150 autonomous vehicles to Korea, we put it out there we were looking for investors. We had been working with local New Zealand companies to design and make the first couple of vehicles.
‘‘If a local company had come along with $10m a couple of months ago that might have changed the equation but that didn’t happen.’’
Zabrieszach said Heshan was in a central location and looking to attract businesses to its massive industrial parks.
‘‘We’re setting up manufacturing there to build thousands of Ohmio vehicles in due course. But, more importantly, we will set up an autonomous vehicle research centre and attract about 100 highly qualified graduates.’’
The company employs 30 people at its artificial intelligence centre in Auckland and Zabrieszach said some of them would be relocated to build up the Chinese centre, with others recruited from universities in other countries.
The Chinese deal was signed by Mohammed Hikmet, founder and chairman of Ohmio’s parent company, HMI Technologies, and the deputy director of the Heshan Industrial City Administration Committee, Wu Xiaoqing. HMI Technologies is located in Auckland.