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NAVYA's ARMA project: Self-driving buses moving ahead in France, Singapore, and soon Taiwan?

French startup NAVYA pursues such a lofty goal and has already accumulated much praise for its efforts. Founded in 2014, the company focuses on self-driving technology for public transportation. They are located in Lyon, but have already opened offices in Paris with a staff of around 120.

NAVYA's team has gained fame through its Arma project, a self-driving bus for up to 15 people. The startup has also cooperated with countries within the Asia- Pacific region, including Australia, Japan, and Singapore. According to official data from 2016 until now, there are no reports of the vehicle being involved in any accidents, or having caused any injures. Not a mean feat for the nascent technology!

Start from France

France until now has been mostly known for its vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, and high-end fashion. Yet readers of BNext/Meet probably have already seen the vibrant startup culture that has taken root in the European country.

It is thus no exaggeration to claim that when it comes to innovation, France is almost always involved. The government continues to support new and established tech companies, as well as being willing to embrace the risks involved with such an approach. In regard to NAVYA, the administration is actively seeking to remove regulatory obstructions for the new technology, all the while providing an environment the public can feel safe in.

Tasked with building and controlling an adequate public transport network in Paris, the Syndicat des transports d'Île-de-France (STIF), France's public transport organization, has announced plans to build a route for self-driving buses by 2020, with night shuttles being a focus in particular. Moreover, the organization plans to finish all tests for the system by the end of this year, thereby hoping to ease prevalent concern regarding safety.

From campuses to neighborhoods to Olympia: Navya's international expansion

The first city to become equipped with a self-driving bus system, however, is NAVYA's hometown Lyon.

But besides French cities, the ambitious startup is also cooperating internationally, with the service already being introduced to Singapore, and Japan as well as Switzerland to be following soon.

Similar to plans in France, Singapore aims to open a wider network for self- driving buses by 2020. Partially, this effort is also supported by the government, which has been tasking local institutions with the project.

Among these Nanyang Technological University (NTU) figures centrally. Having gained a subsidy to introduce the first ARMA from NAVYA, the university has installed it as a shuttle service for students.

Following the first trouble-free year, the government has issued a license to allow the extension of ARMA into neighboring areas.

Japan, too, intends to install the service right in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. With masses of tourists expected, the municipal government hopes to ease some of the stress on the public transportation system through ARMA. Recently, SoftBank's SD Drive announced its cooperation with NAVYA, initially importing two Arma buses in 2017.

NAVYA and Taiwan

What with the government's ambitious plans for startups and technology firms, Taiwan seems like a natural choice for NAVYA in its expansion.

Unsurprisingly, the company's general manager in Singpore, Samuel Mathey, came to Taiwan to discuss cooperation with local governments and organizations.

Both Mathey and vice general manager Henri Coron are responsible at Navya for the Taiwanese market. Asked about which factor can help push forward the development of self-driving cars in Taiwan, Mathey pointed to better regulations.

“What people and the government care about is the same, safety. Yet too much regulations cripple the work of startups.” To help improve this situation, Mathey was eager to demonstrate how much NAVYA has achieved already to his Taiwanese audience. Judging from the reactions of his hosts, he is optimistic in regard to future cooperation, as well as to Taiwan's contributions to self-driving cars.

Feliciana Hsu
English journalist and PR for Global Affairs

Feliciana gained her MSc of Media Power and Public Affairs from Royal Holloway, University of London.

After graduating from London, she started her career of being journalist at Business Next Media and Meet Startup @TW Website, and specializes in interviewing about innovation and technology.

Within her career, she has interviewed various experts in their field, including Mr.Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; Fleur Pellerin, former French Minister of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economic in 2010.