SALINE, Mich. — Navya, the French maker of autonomous shuttle buses, has opened a small assembly plant in this town about 40 miles west of Detroit with plans to add an industrial tractor and a robotaxi to its lineup.
In fact, CEO Christophe Sapet says, Navya is even exporting vehicles — or more accurately, one vehicle — from the United States.
A shuttle bus being used in a pilot program that started this month in Candiac, Quebec, was built here.
That single exported vehicle is in keeping with the scale of production here, where one hand-built vehicle is made per month. The plant employs 25 people, with a target of 30 by year end, and plans to add a second shift.
Sapet says the kind of volume that major automakers achieve is irrelevant to a company whose sole current product costs $320,000 and is sold mainly to operators of dedicated transit systems. The robotaxi, shown at CES in January, will cost more because it needs more sophisticated sensors, he says.
"The problem is, with such prices as we have, not many people can afford such cars," Sapet said. "It's not really our concern. We are positioning Navya as inventing a new system of mobility. This mobility must be shared."
Nevertheless, Sapet says, the robotaxi will give the industry "a different view of Navya" because it will travel varied routes on public streets, rather than the set routes followed by the shuttles. Navya vehicles operating on streets are required to have a person on board monitoring the vehicle.