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Navya and Daqri add to state’s leading mobility tech landscape

When it comes to being part of the mobility revolution, Michigan remains a destination for companies and innovators who have advanced technologies aimed at changing the way people and goods move around the world.

In two separate announcements, self-driving vehicle manufacturer Navya Inc. released news that it will open its first North American assembly plant in Saline, and augmented reality tech company Daqri has chosen Oakland County for a new product development center.

While other competitive sites were considered for both facilities, Michigan’s rich ecosystem of suppliers, major automakers, startups and research and development centers placed it in the lead.

“As the leader of the automotive industry and an innovator in new vehicle and transportation technologies, Michigan is attracting companies helping craft the future of what these industries look like,” said Trevor Pawl, vice president of Michigan Economic Development Corporation. 

“These expansions are examples of why our progressive stance on testing driverless vehicles, institutional knowledge of the auto industry and world-class testing facilities have made us the number-one destination for developing new mobility technology,” he said.

Established in 2014, Navya is a French company specializing in driverless electric vehicles. Since 2015, they have been working with the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center and the self-driving vehicle proving ground Mcity to launch ARMA, a driverless electric shuttle capable of carrying up to 15 people. Starting this fall, two such shuttles will be operating on private and public roadways on a portion of the university’s campus.

The assembly plant, which was awarded a $435,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant, represents a more than $1 million investment by Navya. The facility will provide 50 jobs for the area and is projected to build 25 ARMA shuttles by the end of 2017. 

Navya has a fleet of 35 such shuttles that are deployed in 10 different countries. The expanded operations in Michigan are part of the company’s larger goal to grow in the North American market.

“We at Navya could not be more pleased to call Saline, Michigan, home to our first assembly plant in North America,” NAVYA CEO Christophe Sapet said. “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. Strong government and community support for mobility initiatives combined with an excellent talent pool provide the ideal environment for our expansion in North America.”

Based in Los Angeles, Daqri was given a $100,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Business Development Program. With an investment of $768,000, the product development center is expected to create 12 engineering and product manager jobs. 

The facility will work on further developing its smart automotive heads-up display (HUD) for the auto industry, hiring engineers with expertise in the areas of electrical, mechanical and software, as well as more production-focused roles of systems engineering and quality assurance. 

The company’s Smart HUD uses holographic technology to better connect motorists to vehicle information and make the driving experience safer. Its next-generation of Smart HUD technology also allows for drivers to communicate directly with self-driving vehicles.

With the demand for head-up-displays estimated to have a 24 percent annual growth rate, being in Michigan will enable the company to better serve the North American market.

“Michigan is the epicenter of transportation mobility, and we want to be at the heart of it as we bring automated reality to the car,” Daqri CEO Brian Mullins said.

“Our new office in Oakland County represents a commitment to our Smart HUD partners and customers in the automotive industry, and will enable us to collaborate on solutions even more closely.”

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