Driver­less shut­tle firm inks $20m China deal

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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