A driverless bus startup is about to set up shop in Chicago.
Navya, a Lyon, France-based startup that makes fully electric and autonomous shuttles, announced today that it is opening its first US office in Chicago. The office will be located in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood and will house sales managers, customer relations managers and project coordinators. The company plans to have a team of five by the end of the year.
Navya launched in 2015 and has raised more than $30 million to date. Its autonomous vehicle Arma was in development for 10 years before it debuted, and can go 28 miles per hours and carry 15 people at a time. Navya has been on the road in places like France, Switzerland and Japan, and Las Vegas held a 2-week trial of the shuttles in January. Navya has also tested Arma at MCity, the University of Michigan’s test site for connected and automated vehicles.
Navya says there are 35 Arma vehicles in use in nine countries around the world, and it has transported more than 130,000 people.
Based off its success in Vegas, Navya said it decided it was the time was right to establish a permanent location in the US.
“Navya is committed to being a deeply invested partner for American transit alternatives. The Arma delivers public mobility solutions that are both autonomous and sustainable and provide viable first and last mile transportation for both civic and private enterprise applications,” Navya CEO Christophe Sapet said in a statement. “To deliver that, we need a base of operations in the U.S. and Chicago is ideal as it’s both a city that believes in public transportation and provides our team with a centralized location in the country.”
Navya’s Chicago office makes sense on one hand, as like many corporate relocations and companies that expand operations to Chicago, there’s a desire to be centrally located and access Chicago’s airports. But on another hand, Chicago has been vocally against driverless vehicles, at least by some of the city’s aldermen.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) introduced an ordinance last year to ban driverless cars in Chicago, and the city has yet to make any official plans for testing the new technology. A spokesperson didn’t respond when asked if Navya plans to do any Chicago test runs.
Navya added it’s also evaluating a number of cities to establish a new US production facility.
Check out Navya in action below.