Driverless-shuttle maker to set up in Saline

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Navya, the French maker of self-driving shuttles, will set up its 20,000-square-foot production facility in Saline.

Once the operation is up and running, the facility will produce 25 of its Arma shuttles before the end of the year. Navya’s $1 million-plus investment plan is expected to create 50 jobs.

Navya has previously partnered with the nearby University of Michigan and will operate driverless shuttles on the North Campus starting in the fall semester.

“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,” Navya CEO Christophe Sapet said in a statement. “Strong government and community support for mobility initiatives combined with an excellent talent pool provide the ideal environment for our expansion in North America.”

Job postings for the assembly plant are at

Arma shuttles are 100-percent autonomous, driverless and electric vehicles with room for 15. They are designed to supplement public transportation and can reach speeds of 28 mph. It is a basic vehicle with bench seating at the ends, individual seats along one side, standing room in the middle — and no steering wheel. The driverless shuttles are guided by GPS, cameras, lidar laser-sensing and other sensors.

Brian Marl, Saline’s mayor, said in a statement, “Navya is an innovative company, working on the latest autonomous vehicle technology; I believe that their future is bright, and the City of Saline looks forward to assisting and supporting them in every reasonable way.”

Navya’s investment is expected to trigger a $435,000 Michigan Business Development grant. The company is already providing driverless shuttles on campuses in Singapore and Lausanne, Switzerland.

Navya’s autonomous vehicle efforts in the U.S. will take a large step forward in the coming months when an Arma shuttle begins transporting students and faculty on campus. For the past six months, an Arma shuttle has been showing visitors around Mcity’s 32-acres automotive test facility on the university’s North Campus.

University and company officials unveiled the project last month.

“The first-ever automated shuttle service on a campus is a critical research project that will help us understand the challenge and opportunities presented by this type of mobility service and how people interact with it,” Huei Peng, a researcher who is Mcity’s director, said in June. “The shuttles will augment UM’s busy campus bus service to provide another mobility option.”

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