France’s Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Ecological Transition have authorized EasyMile and Oncopole, the Cancer University Institute and Cancer Research Center of Toulouse, to operate a driverless shuttle at Level 4 — without any human attendant onboard — on a public road carrying mixed traffic. Previous Level 4 operations in Europe have been on private, closed sites.
The 600-meter (0.4 miles) route between the university’s main entrance and a remote parking lot is shared with bicycles, pedestrians, cars and buses. The service has been operating with a human attendant onboard, furnished by transportation company Alstom, since March of this year. It will transition to fully driverless Level 4 mode, overseen by a remote control center, in the coming months.
Implementation of the final regulatory framework allowing the circulation of autonomous vehicles on public roads elsewhere in France is due to begin in September 2022.
EasyMile currently operates six other Level 4 deployments. Its shared passenger vehicles are equipped with appropriate levels of safety and system redundancies to operate safely and efficiently in a wide range of environments. With the level of integrity of this technology now high enough to withdraw on board supervisors and introduce remote supervision in a growing number of these, it unlocks commercial and operational benefits such as:
• Scalability: A control center can supervise multiple vehicles from anywhere meaning scaling to autonomous vehicle fleets without additional manpower is possible.
• Flexibility: The service becomes fully flexible as vehicles can be deployed immediately as demand arises, without having to wait for additional operators to be available. This driving performance, with shuttles that can operate safely and efficiently in complex environments, delivers a service that is meaningful for users.
The Oncopole autonomous shuttle service is part of the Sécurité Acceptabilité Mobilité Autonome (SAM, Safety and Acceptability of Autonomous Driving and Mobility) project, with additional partner Toulouse Métropole.
SAM is a French national-scale project of driving and autonomous mobility experiments bringing together industrial players, research and territorial partners. The challenge is twofold: to develop the uses and knowledge of these systems by citizens and local stakeholders and to build the future regulatory framework, particularly in terms of safety validation.
The operation is at the heart of France’s national strategy for autonomous vehicles, enabling the co-construction of a legislative framework for deployment on open roads. It is being carried out with the support of the French government’s “Investissements d’avenir” program, led by ADEME, as part of the EVRA (Experimentation of Autonomous Road Vehicles) call for projects.
Photos courtesy EasyMile.