Auckland autonomous vehicle maker scores Chinese investment

Ohmio Automotion will set up a manufacturing plant for autonomous vehicles and an artificial intelligence transport research centre in the Chinese city of Heshan

Autonomous vehicle developer Ohmio Automotion, a subsidiary of Auckland based intelligent transport systems company HMI Technologies, has scored a $US20m investment from Chinese city, Heshan and will set up a manufacturing plant for autonomous vehicles and an artificial intelligence transport research centre in the Chinese city of Heshan.

The agreement was signed by the founder and chairman of HMI and Ohmio, Mohammed Hikmet, and the deputy director of the Heshan Industrial City Administration Committee, Wu Xiaoqing. It follows Ohmio in April announcing a deal to supply 150 Ohmio autonomous shuttles to the Korean company, Southwest Coast Enterprise City Development Co Ltd (SolaSeaDo).

Hikmet said New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) had helped HMI Technologies/Ohmio score the deal with Heshan. “Without them it would have been very difficult to achieve what we have achieved today,” he said.

Dean Zabrieszach, CEO of HMI Technologies/Ohmio, said the deal with Heshan would enable Ohmio to meet its mass production requirements inside and outside of Chins and boost its research activities by establishing an autonomous platform solution as part of an entire ecosystem.

“While the R&D centre in New Zealand will continue to be the main one, we look forward to the Heshan centre starting as soon as possible, under the supervision of our key technology and artificial intelligence leaders in the company,” he said.

Hikmet added: “Whilst this is an important milestone for the company, HMI Technologies/Ohmio regard it as a first step in the process of building the company as a global autonomous vehicle manufacturer. We will continue to work with NZTE, ATEED and MFAT to secure the company base in New Zealand and Australia, and to gain a foothold in other markets such as Europe and the US.”

In March Ohmio started testing the Ohmio Lift — claimed to be the first NZ designed and built autonomous vehicle — on private roads at Christchurch Airport.

HMI describes Ohmio as “a commercial company focused on the development and deployment of Level 4+ self drive vehicles” that has developed what it believes to be a world-leading self-driving system. It claims to have more than 30 developers and technical experts from around the world, nine of whom hold PhDs.

According to the SAE’s definition of autonomous vehicles a Level 4 vehicle should be able to operate autonomously under most conditions and safely abort a trip if the driver fails to respond. A Level 3 vehicle relies on the driver responding if the autonomous system cannot cope and a Level 5 vehicle should operate without a human driver under all conditions that a human driver would normally encounter.

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