One of the strongest draws to Ann Arbor is MCity, a 32-acre testing ground that opened in 2015. It features simulated city streets, intersections and storefronts where carmakers and others can test self-driving vehicles in a confined but realistic setting. Dozens of companies, including General Motors, Toyota, Honda, BMW and Intel, are conducting research there in collaboration with the university.
Last winter they were joined by Navya, a French start-up that has developed a small, autonomous shuttle bus. Two will go into service at the university in September in one of the first trials of a driverless transit vehicle open to the public. By the end of the year, Navya plans to begin building its buses near Ann Arbor.
Henri Coron, Navya’s vice president for sales, said the decision to locate the assembly plant in Michigan was based on “the strength of support” from the university.
The university’s president, Mark Schlissel, said his institution was trying to ensure that Michigan remains a vibrant center of automotive innovation, even as Silicon Valley and other locations take prominent roles in developing self-driving cars.
“We want to provide the research underpinning for the state to succeed in competing in this future of mobility,” he said. “For the economic future of the state, it is critical that the leadership of automotive technology remains in southeastern Michigan.”