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Home / News / Tech / Riverside council OKs deal with electric autonomous shuttle maker

Riverside council OKs deal with electric autonomous shuttle maker

by Staff
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The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a contract with the autonomous shuttle company Ohmio to move its international headquarters from New Zealand to Riverside and manufacture the all-electric vehicles here.

The company is visiting several possible properties in Riverside for its facility, according to a statement by city spokesman Phil Pitchford. Ohmio also will move to Riverside its research and development function, test vehicles in the city and designate Riverside as its point of sale, resulting in a portion for the city of all Ohmio-generated sales tax revenue.

Ohmio chose Riverside partly because the city hosts the Southern California headquarters of the California Air Resources Board, Pitchford said. Ohmio also plans to work closely with representatives from UC Riverside, the university’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology, California Baptist University, La Sierra University and the Riverside Community College District.

“Riverside is emerging as a global center for clean and green technology, and Ohmio is the next step in that evolution,” Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said in a statement. “This company provides an important building block for Riverside’s future economy.”

The city will spend a maximum of $2.5 million to facilitate Ohmio’s move to Riverside, including approximately $1.5 million to lease or purchase three autonomous shuttles for testing on Riverside streets in a two-year pilot program.

All-electric autonomous shuttles sell for about $300,000 to $400,000, which would generate $26,250 in sales taxes to the City for each vehicle, Pitchford estimated. The company’s estimates call for the manufacture of 550 to 750 shuttles in the first five years, which will contribute $1.65 million to $2.25 million in sales taxes to the city.

Ohmio shuttles built in Riverside “will be the first end-to-end, all-electric autonomous shuttles manufactured from the ground up in the United States,” Pitchford said. “They seat eight people and have room for six more people to stand with the ability for different seating configurations. Ohmio shuttles travel  up to 25 miles per hour and have never been involved in an accident.”

The driverless shuttles in Riverside will be limited to specific locations and routes within the city, which officials have not yet identified, according to Pitchford. Ohmio shuttle service will not compete with routes operated by the Riverside Transit Agency. 

Each shuttle will have a safety operator who can take control of the shuttle if necessary and assist passengers with getting on and off the shuttle, Pitchford added.

Ohmio shuttles currently operate in New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Luxembourg and New York, and the company has expansion plans for the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Finland.

In Riverside, Ohmio plans to establish an “advanced manufacturing facility,” with the first locally produced vehicles slated to start rolling out next year, Pitchford said. The company expects to create seven engineering and technician jobs initially, then expand its Riverside staff during the next three years to at least 25 jobs.

“Experts estimate that every job created in advanced manufacturing spurs the creation of 2.5 jobs in other sectors needed to support advanced manufacturing, meaning more than 100 total jobs could be generated by Ohmio’s relocation to Riverside,” Pitchford said.

“There is a great promise in these autonomous shuttles complementing our existing transit system by bridging gaps and improving connectivity,” Mayor Pro Tem Erin Edwards said in a statement. “Riverside has an opportunity to show the world how autonomous shuttles can improve public transportation and reduce the environmental impacts associated with travel.”

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