12 Sep 2017

The streets of central Christchurch have been used to demonstrate the latest in self-driving vehicle technology.

Three self-driving Ohmio Hop electric shuttles were driven in a connected convoy along Worcester Boulevard this morning. 

Connected convoys can move extremely efficiently and safely together in formation, which makes the Ohmio vehicles the world’s first self-driving and scalable public transport solution.

The Ohmio vehicles are also world-leading with their self-mapping artificial intelligence, which means that once they have completed their route once, under supervision, they are able to self-drive the route over and over without external input. The importance of this ability is that the vehicles are extremely easy for operators to deploy.  

The company behind their development, Ohmio Automotion, is a subsidiary of HMI Technologies, the intelligent transport systems company which is working with Christchurch International Airport Ltd to conduct New Zealand’s first trial of a fully autonomous vehicle.

Ohmio Automotion announced this morning that it intends to start production of self-driving vehicles in New Zealand.

Mohammed Hikmet, the founder of HMI Technologies, says being in New Zealand offers the company a formidable advantage.

“The testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles elsewhere is slowed down by legislation or requires special permits. Here is New Zealand, the government already allows for testing of driverless vehicles. That gives Ohmio an advantage as we scale up and develop our technology,’’ Mr Hikmet said.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel is excited by the Ohmio technology and what it will mean for the city's future direction.

"HMI's Ohmio is a world first which takes transport innovation to a new level. And they have done it here in Christchurch where we are seizing the opportunity to become a test-bed for emerging technologies. We won't be swamped by disruption - we will embrace it, learn from it and turn it on its head,"  the Mayor said.

"I reminded people last week that the airport trial of the e-shuttle will assist central government write the regulatory framework for using autonomous vehicles on New Zealand roads. 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 New Zealand and the world."