French start-up EasyMile is to be the first transport provider to run a fully autonomous vehicle on a public road in Europe.
The company has been authorised to run a driverless bus at the Oncopole medical campus in Toulouse, in partnership with French engineer Alstom.
The bus will operate at “level 4” – that is, with no human supervising the vehicle’s AI systems.
The approval was granted by France’s Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Ecological Transition, on the advice of the Minister of the Interior and local authorities. It comes ahead of the implementation of a general regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles, scheduled for September next year.
Benoit Perrin, EasyMile’s general manager, commented in a press release: “This is an important step towards real commercialization of autonomous driving, both on large private sites, as well as on public roads. The applications for our technology to move people and goods continue to grow, especially in locations like campuses, business parks, industrial sites and masterplanned communities.”
The company will be using its EZ10 people mover, an electric vehicle with PV-enhanced charging. It can carry up to 15 passengers, who will be asked to wear seat belts; wheelchair users will be able to mount the vehicle with the aid of an automated ramp.
The service at Oncopole, which has already begun, runs for 600m between the main entrance of the facility and a remote parking lot. At present, the service is remotely supervised, but it will transition to being fully driverless in the coming months.
The shuttle is part of the SAM project – Safety and Acceptability of Autonomous Driving and Mobility. This is itself part of France’s national strategy for developing autonomous vehicles for use on open roads. It is being carried out with the support of the government’s “Investissements d’avenir” – Investment for the Future – programme.