French startup Navya said Thursday it plans to launch driverless buses in Kaohsiung next year. At a Taipei news conference, Navya executives said they hope to begin trial operation of the ARMA model during the EcoMobility World Festival in October 2017.
Navya raised US$34 million in fresh funds in October. The capital came from two strategic partners: automotive parts group Valeo and public transportation provider Keolis.
Navya’s ARMA bus can transport up to 15 passengers at a time at speeds up to 45kph, the executives said. Navya has formed a partnership with a local firm, 7starlake Consultant Co Ltd, to promote and distribute its autonomous vehicles in Taiwan. The Taiwanese firm also supplies computer systems to Navya.
“We need local partners to work on negotiations with local governments, as restrictions are different [in different countries],” Navya vice president Henri Coron said. Currently, autonomous cars are not allowed on Taiwan’s streets.
“We are now planning to first promote driverless cars in industrial parks or airports to comply with legal requirements,” 7starlake general manager Martin Ting said.
Navya is considering introducing its autonomous buses to companies at Taichung Gateway Park and the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, Ting said, adding that autonomous vehicles can provide low-cost shuttle services for commuters who work in industrial parks or airports. Vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence are able to detect obstacles on roads and determine the best routes to take, he explained.