During a press conference today in Paris, the French autonomous vehicle company Navya introduced what it called a “mobility revolution.” Coming on the heels of Waymo’s announcement today that it’ll be testing driverless cars in a Phoenix suburb without a safety driver, it seems the shift towards driverless cars is at least gaining momentum.
Billed as a smart mobility solution to the challenge of rapid urbanization, the Autonom Cab, which drove onto a stage lit like a Tron backdrop, is an 100 percent electric, autonomous vehicle. Specifically developed for urban transportation and the first production autonomous cabs on the market, the Autonom will be unveiled to the public in January 2018 during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the company is already testing its driverless shuttle. Future partners and locations are expected to be announced shortly, with plans for regular service expected to be established in the second quarter of 2018.
The self-driving cab, which reaches 80 kilometers an hour (50 mph), has space for six passengers, with both rows of seats facing each other (the vehicle lacks a steering wheel, cockpit or any traditional car interior layout). Christophe Sapet, the company’s CEO, explained that the vehicles are specifically designed for urban transportation. Riders will be able to hail the cabs and open the door with a dedicated app and pay via their smartphones. The vehicles are also fully connected, and will give riders the ability to take an interactive, narrated tour of the city, connect to wifi, and even purchase tickets to museums and cultural centers while in transit.
“Ever since it was founded, NAVYA has been listening to cities and the mobility market,” said Sapet in a statement. “Today, we must recognize that the status of individual cars has changed, especially among younger generations. Young people today do not necessarily have their driver’s license and are less attached to the concept of owning their own car. What really interests them is having mobility solutions that are operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ensuring their safety and well-being at a reduced cost.”
Navya has been one of the leading developers and proponents of autonomous shuttles. The firm, which recently opened a manufacturing plant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been conducting trials of its AV shuttles in cities around the globe. Chris Pauly, the company’s director of business development, told Curbed the company currently has 57 shuttles operating around the world, including the trial on the Vegas strip, and has transported a quarter of a million passengers in vehicles without drivers.
Pauly said that earlier Navya models would offer a great complement to existing public and mass transit networks. Carrying small groups of passengers, their vehicles ideally would serve as a solution to the last-mile problem, functioning as a hub-and-spoke system, operating day and night, adjusting routes in real-time based on rider requests, and potentially even rolling themselves into charging stations when they need more power. The Autonom Cab would add another layer to this concept.
During the event, French government officials spoke of their collaboration on the unveiling of the Autonom, and their hope that it could lead to better mobility, accessibility, and well as equality.