It’s a world first: the citizens of Lyon can now go to the tip of the La Confluence eco-district, at the southern end of the peninsula, thanks to autonomous electric shuttles. Since the beginning of September 2016, two vehicles without drivers, steering wheels or pedals have been driving around the city. We found out more from MobiliCités.
Autonomes, electRIC… and teaming with technology
The result of a partnership between startup Navya and transport operator Keolis, which is in charge of Lyon’s urban public transport network, the Navly shuttles have been on the road since September. Nearly 100,000 hours of engineering and the contribution of 30 companies went into this 100%-French innovation. Whilst there are agents on board to offer assistance to passengers and step in if any problems arise, the vehicles can detect obstacles (pedestrians, lampposts, signs, etc.) and position themselves very precisely thanks to cameras with computer_stereo_vision, laser sensors and a satnav.
The project, launched by the French Ministry of the Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy as a “nationwide experiment”, is the only one of its kind in the world: it’s on public highways and is open to the public. Throughout the experiment, which will last a year, users will be able to use the service for free from Monday to Friday. Between 400 and 1,000 people a day will benefit from this state-of-the-art transport system.
Innovation to address the challenges of urban mobility
Despite their limited passenger capacity, (around fifteen people per bus), these shuttles fulfil a major ambition: addressing the last mile issue, a problem which is particularly acute in isolated areas, where opening a new bus line is too costly. The Navly shuttles were thus designed as an addition to the city’s existing public transports systems. As Keolis’s chairman Jean-Pierre Farandou points out: “Having to walk a few hundred metres can put people off using public transport,”
The autonomous shuttle bus also has two other major challenges: it has to prove that it’s reliable and can pave the way for a new form of urban mobility – a major consideration given that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be urban.
Lyon: a cutting-edge Smart city
The Navly project is part of a broader smart city initiative in the Greater Lyon area.
A way of using new technology solutions to improve citizens’ social and environmental quality of life, these shuttles confirm Lyon’s status as a pioneer of smart cities: along with Munich and Vienna, it’s taking part in the Smarter Together project, which aims to “offer smart solutions that can be replicated on a global scale to improve citizens’ quality of life.”
“We’re living in an age of innovation: we have to look at how the world is reinventing itself and stay one step ahead,” says Gérard Collomb, chairman of the Lyon City Council. “Driverless transport is one of the keys to the city of the future. I believe that the only type of intelligence is collective, and innovation can only be collaborative. I truly believe that smart strategies can only succeed if human communities work together and develop concrete projects.”
Automatically-driven cars were also one of the 34 plans of nouvelle France industrielle, a reindustrialisation project for France presented in 2013 by François Hollande. A number of car manufacturers such as PSA Peugeot Citroën have been looking into this.
-> Also on our blog: Greater Lyon area: a smart metropolis buzzing with innovation. In May 2015, Karine Dognin-Sauze, Vice-President of the Lyon City Council, told us about Optimod, an unprecedented innovation which involves collecting all the data from public transport, taxis, car parks, the car-sharing and bike-sharing schemes.