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Kiwi company inks agreement

An Ohmio autonomous bus outside the Christchurch Art Gallery.

New Zealand autonomous vehicle developer Ohmio Automotion may just have scored the largest deal for autonomous shuttle vehicles in the world.

Ohmio has initiated an agreement to supply 150 shuttles to Korean company Southwest Coast Enterprise City Development (SolaSeaDo) in South Korea.

However, the agreement is dependent on SolaSeaDo securing a deal to build a large-scale smart city in Korea. SolaSeaDo is in the advanced stages of securing that contract and will know later this year if it has been successful.

“This is a significant development for Ohmio and a major vote of confidence in what we have developed,” Hikmet said.

The Ohmio LIFT is a 20-person autonomous shuttle that can be extended to carry up to 40-passengers and operates on pre-determined routes without a driver. The offering will provide services similar to a tram, but with “virtual rails” and guided by a range of electronic systems.

Ohmio has been developed by HMI in Auckland, launching the first demonstration in Christchurch last September, using prototype vehicles to showcase the technology of driverless automated shuttles and the robotic technologies that underpin them.

“These first vehicles were to show we had developed the know-how to build an autonomous vehicle,” Hikmet said.

“Since then we have been developing the Ohmio LIFT, a vehicle that we expect will be used in a range of environments such as airports, business parks and central city areas.”

Ohmio’s first sale was to Christchurch International Airport in March.

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Autonomous vehicle trials for Christchurch

Ohmio Automation is building the first New Zealand made autonomous vehicle which will be trialed at Christchurch Airport in the next few months.

LIFT, the autonomous vehicle, will be able to carry up to 20 people and will be used to transport passengers from car parks to the terminal.

Stephen Matthews, Ohmio chief executive, is hopeful that the LIFT will be certified to carry passengers on-road inside a year. 

“Human cost is the biggest cost of transporting people and if we can take that cost out of moving people, we can lower the operating costs,” said Matthews. “It’s a trade off between the capital cost and the operating cost.”

The vehicles are designed to operate on predetermined repetitive routes, and their mapping function means that they can learn a route and repeat it over and over. 

Multiple Ohmio vehicles could also join up to form a convoy, then split up as required to take passengers to different destinations. 

Ohmio is in discussion with other potential users, such as retirement villages and hospitals, who are also interested in using the vehicle to transport passengers between hospital wings. 

The body of the LIFT is being made in Auckland and the chassis in Wellington.

Christchurch Airport general manager corporate affairs, Michael Singleton, said the second phase of the trial meant the vehicle could be proven and licensed, and was built specifically for New Zealand conditions. 

“Collaborating with Ohmio means we have a technology partner and producer which is able to take the learnings from the trial to date and then adapt and enhance the vehicle to New Zealand needs.”

Ohmio is planning to launch several variations later this year.

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Production facility for autonomous vehicles in Christchurch

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.

An Ohmio autonomous bus outside the Christchurch Art Gallery.

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.”

 

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