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Dubai’s Negma invests in French driverless vehicle manufacturer

The Cruise Origin autonomous vehicle, a Honda and General Motors self-driving car partnership Reuters/Stephen Lam
The Cruise Origin autonomous vehicle, a Honda and General Motors self-driving car partnership
  • Government target of a quarter of journeys driverless by end of decade
  • Navya employs 280 people for its autonomous mobility systems

Negma Group has signed a $36 million funding agreement with French firm Navya, which could bring the prospect of driverless vehicles on the emirates’ roads a step closer.

Under the terms of the agreement the financing will take the form of convertible bonds, while the Dubai-based investment firm will also have the option to purchase shares in Navya. 

Negma will make an initial injection of $2.56 million which will be used by Navya to improve its cash flow, finance a plan to scale up its industrialisation plan and speed up its entry into more overseas markets.

“Negma’s involvement in this exciting business project emphasises our willingness to support the profitable growth of a future world mobility leader,” Elaf Gassam, chairman of the Negma Group, said.

“[We believe it can help] meet the challenges of the climate transition and the fluidity problems of the cities and private spaces of tomorrow on a global scale.”

Navya Autonom Shuttle Evo controller

Created in 2014, Navya specialises in the supply of autonomous mobility systems, and currently has 280 employees in France, the US and Singapore. In 2015, it was one of the first companies to market and put into service autonomous mobility vehicles, with more than 200 units sold in 25 countries.

The Dubai government has set a target that a quarter of all journeys in the emirate will be driverless by the end of the decade.

As part of initiatives to reach this target, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has signed an agreement with US firm Cruise Inc. to provide driverless taxis on Dubai’s streets.

In March, on the sidelines of the World Government Summit 2022 held at Expo 2020 Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and chairman of Dubai Executive Council, viewed a model of Origin, the autonomous vehicle manufactured by the US firm.

“Dubai will be the global platform for the launch of Cruise’s Origin autonomous vehicle,” Mattar Al Tayer, director-general of the RTA told UAE state news agency WAM.

“RTA and Cruise are currently conducting trials and working on digital maps for these vehicles until the end of this year.

“In October this year there will be a trial run for BOLT vehicles which will pave the way for the actual launch of the autonomous vehicle service with a limited number of Origin vehicles in 2023.”

The RTA hopes to gradually increase the number of Origin vehicles to reach 4,000 by 2030. 

The Cruise Inc agreement is not the RTA’s only project designed to achieve its goal of getting driverless vehicles on Dubai’s roads. 

The Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport 2023 was launched in May. The finalists for the competition will be announced in October this year, and the overall winner will be revealed in October 2023. Candidates will compete for $2.3 million in prize money.