On Monday 8 June 2020, CEREMA presented its conclusions on the testing of an autonomous electric shuttle in 2018 and 2019 in Nantes. Initiated by Nantes City Lab, this project was financed in part by the European Commission under the mySMARTLife project. Find out what is being said about this unique experiment that has opened the doors to many new possibilities.

Experimentation, or testing under real conditions

Presented for the first time at the CES in Las Vegas, autonomous shuttles have come into service in recent years in cities such as Toronto, Lyon and Singapore. In Nantes, Nantes City Lab initiated its own project in 2018 with the help of a consortium of local stakeholders including LACROIX City. One year after the initial testing phase, the autonomous shuttle was back, this time out in traffic. Plans included continuous innovations and a user survey to test its adoption by citizens.

Connected infrastructure, a challenge met by LACROIX City

Each party had its specific role and expertise: Nantes Métropole for steering the project and managing public spaces; EDF for coordinating and providing the shuttle and electrical connection; Semitan for the public transport component; the Charier Group for the solar road (an innovation that makes it possible to offset the energy consumed by the shuttle through new modular solar slabs integrated into the roads). LACROIX City was responsible for ensuring the safety of the shuttle in a live environment using V2X technology, which allows it to communicate with infrastructure so it can respond and interact with its surroundings in complete safety. All of LACROIX City’s know-how was put to use, from signalling, sensors and traffic management to the ecosystem for operating connected vehicles.

During the first test, the team’s work focused on access management, in this case installing a barrier that rises automatically for the shuttle to pass. Work in the second phase concentrated on two other challenges:

  • The automatic detection and counting of waiting passengers
  • Crossing junctions safely

Working together to build the mobility of tomorrow

To meet these challenges, LACROIX City called on the innovations of LACROIX Lab and the expertise of LACROIX Electronics in the field of industrial IoT, as well as its experience in the automotive, rail and aeronautical markets.

More generally, this project has brought together numerous stakeholders. As Francky Trichet, Deputy Mayor of Nantes Innovation / Digital, emphasised in 2018, it was the ability to collaborate that enabled this project to succeed. “The autonomous shuttle in Nantes is above all a story of encounters between different stakeholders. This open innovation – involving the community, major corporations and start-ups – is beneficial not only for creating business, sharing skills, projecting technology and pooling know-how, but also for citizens.  Everyone has adopted a collaborative stance, so of course when we all work together, we go faster and further.

Encouraging results

Cerema presented the results of its assessment on 8 June. In summary:

  • the conclusions are positive regarding driving autonomy and perception autonomy
  • feedback is more mixed on energy autonomy and social acceptability
  • some technological aspects still need to be perfected before considering a larger-scale and/or unsupervised deployment
  • it was a rich learning experience for all partners.

This twofold experiment proved to be inspiring and innovative on several levels. It has allowed users to discover what smart mobility will look like in the future while also encouraging an overall reassessment of our behaviours in terms of more efficient and more responsible modes of transport.