Boxy shuttles, not cars, will be people’s first taste of autonomous vehicles

While they may not be as sexy as sleek autonomous sports cars zipping down a highway, slower, boxy shuttles present more of a practical–and less risky–self-driving electrified solution to moving people around cities. But these shuttles will confront the same hurdle that all autonomous vehicles will face: a high price tag.

“The price is so high today,” Christophe Sapet, the CEO of French autonomous vehicle company Navya, told Digital Trends. “You can’t imagine how someone could afford $200,000 or $500,000 for a self-driving car.”

Instead of selling vehicles for private ownership, Navya’s strategy is to build small, electric autonomous shuttles with a $300,000-plus cost that can be amortized over time by municipalities, campuses, and large corporate parks working on smart city-style projects. The company recently christened a new plant for producing its shuttles in Saline, Michigan, about 40 miles west of Detroit.