Autonomous shuttle producer plans operation in Michigan

on Jul19

Navya has a fleet of 45 Arma shuttles around the world.

French autonomous shuttle-maker Navya said it plans to open its first North American production facility in Saline, Mich., which will roll out 25 of its driverless Arma shuttles by the end of the year.

Kits will be brought from France initially, a Navya spokesperson said Tuesday, but Nayva is under contract with U.S. suppliers to provide parts in hopes that 60 percent of the total cost of parts are manufactured in the U.S.

Navya, which has a fleet of 45 Arma shuttles around the world, is investing $1 million into the 20,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to result in 50 jobs within two years, the company said.

Saline is just south of Ann Arbor, Mich., where Navya partnered with the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center (Mcity) in October 2015 to launch its 100 percent autonomous and electric Arma shuttle.

“We at NAVYA could not be more pleased to call Saline, Michigan, home to our first assembly plant in North America,” Navya CEO Christophe Sapet said in a statement. “As the greater Ann Arbor area continues to establish itself as a hub for autonomous vehicle development, we feel it’s the perfect location for us. Strong government and community support for mobility initiatives combined with an excellent talent pool provide the ideal environment for our expansion in North America.”

Ann Arbor SPARK, a nonprofit economic organization, provided assistance to Navya during the process of choosing Saline for the site.

Last month, Henri Coron, Navya’s vice president of sales, said the company would look to establish a facility in the Ann Arbor area employing 15 people, with production to begin Sept. 30. No specific timetable for production is scheduled yet, the spokesperson said. But with plans to hire 50 people, Navya can benefit from a $435,000 Michigan Business Development performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Navya formed in 2014 in France before launching the Arma in 2015. The shuttle is equipped with sensors and an onboard computing system that allows it to identify and interact with traffic, road signs and other surroundings. The vehicle can travel up to 28 mph and transport 15 people at a time. The shuttles cost $285,000, and most are leased.

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