In a 6-1 vote on Tuesday, the Riverside City Council approved a motion to negotiate an agreement with Ohmio, a New Zealand-based autonomous electric vehicle manufacturer. If finalized, the deal would establish Riverside as the location for Ohmio's international headquarters and its advanced manufacturing facility for autonomous shuttles, making it the only such facility in the United States.
Ohmio has expressed interest in a 40,000-square-foot facility on Mount Vernon Avenue in the Hunter Park industrial area. The company also plans to bring its research and development operations to Riverside, test vehicles locally, and designate the city as its point of sale, directing future sales taxes to Riverside.
The company expects to create up to 10 jobs initially, potentially expanding to 30 jobs within the next three years. These positions would range from engineers to technicians. According to industry experts, each job in advanced manufacturing typically generates an additional 2.5 jobs in supporting sectors.
The city is considering an investment of up to $2.5 million to bring Ohmio to Riverside. This sum includes approximately $1.5 million for leasing or purchasing three autonomous shuttles for local testing. Each autonomous shuttle is priced around $300,000, potentially generating $26,250 in sales taxes for the city per vehicle.
Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson stated, "This exciting proposal is an opportunity to capitalize on our strengths as the City of Arts and Innovation." Mayor Pro Tem Erin Edwards added that autonomous vehicles could augment existing transit systems and "be the key to allowing us to experience our city by bus, bicycle or on foot."
Ohmio operates shuttles in New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Luxembourg, and New York and is expanding into the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Finland. The company's presence in Riverside could offer local universities opportunities for collaboration in autonomous vehicle technology research, potentially attracting additional funding and shaping the industry's future.
Mohammed Hikmet, Executive Chairman of Ohmio, expressed enthusiasm about the potential partnership, stating, "Our company's vision aligns seamlessly with the city's forward-thinking direction."
The agreement is still under negotiation, with the first locally produced vehicles expected to be available next year if the deal is finalized.