Self-driving electric shuttles to be made in Christchurch
Self-driving electric vehicles will be made in Christchurch following the launch of a new company.
Ohmio Automation, a subsidiary of HMI Technologies, launched its driverless shuttles at the Christchurch Art Gallery on Tuesday.
Executives and staff from the Auckland-based company made their presentation to invited guests, civic dignitaries, and a group of school children.
The shuttles may not be used on city roads for many years but would be for more controlled environments like retirement villages, airports, or the campus of a business or educational facility.
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HMI Technologies chief executive Stephen Matthews said the shuttles were designed to be a "last mile solution" to carry people and luggage short distances or provide the last mile connection to or from transport hubs.
Four models are planned for production in the next year, ranging from small shuttles and freight pods to larger vehicles.
The shuttles have self-mapping artificial intelligence, which means once they have driven a route under supervision they can remember the way and drive it autonomously.
Several shuttles can also be linked up to form a convoy, allowing the vehicles to be scaled depending on need.
Matthews said HMI was motivated to create Ohmio by the idea people might no longer need to rely on their private vehicles, which would reduce congestion, pollution and crashes and make the community better off.
HMI founder Mohammed Hikmet said being based in New Zealand offered a formidable advantage as the Government already allowed testing of autonomous vehicles.
"New Zealand has a reputation for innovation and that has also helped us recruit international expertise."
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said Christchurch was 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," she told guests.
HMI already has three autonomous vehicles trials under way in New Zealand and Australia, including one at Christchurch Airport.
The New Zealand-based company has been developing intelligent transport systems for 15 years.
Matthews said the company was looking for suitable Christchurch premises to set up a manufacturing base for the new vehicles.