VEDECOM’s self-driving shuttles are one year old

On 10th December 2019, VEDECOM celebrated the first anniversary of its extended-perception self-driving shuttles operating in the Satory district of Versailles. The two vehicles serve the last kilometre of the journey for employees working on Satory’s Allée des Marronniers road, which is open to regular traffic. Here’s a review of their first year of service, demonstrations and experiments.

More than 10,000 km covered by these first extended-perception self-driving vehicles to operate on open roads in France

Having covered precisely 10,463 kilometres, VEDECOM’s self-driving shuttles Framboise and Litchi – as they are affectionately known – are now a familiar sight around the Satory area. 4,533 passengers have been carried, without incident, at speeds of up to 18.997 km/h. 81.5% of those surveyed claimed to be completely satisfied. The vehicles themselves – EZ 10 shuttles, produced using EasyMile technology – are operated by VEDECOM Tech, VEDECOM and the Paris-Saclay region, and operated by Transdev.

. It is the first extended-perception self-driving vehicle service to operate on open roads in France. The shuttles satisfy two purposes: firstly, serving passengers, whose daily mobility is improved by their “last-kilometre” coverage; and secondly, research, for which they serve as a useful tool for observation and research.

A year of continuous progress

In the year since their inauguration on 10th December 2018, the Framboise and Litchi shuttles have passed many milestones. Initially restricted to 15 km/h, they were upgraded to 18 km/h on 1st February 2019. This speed-up was closely followed by the implementation of the BlushMeUp smartphone app, offering an interface for streamlining journeys: geolocation of shuttles, viewing timetables, calculating journey times in real time, etc. The road infrastructure was also modified to adapt to these new vehicles and enable the installation of extended perception (installation of perception sensors along the roadside). Lastly, a monitoring system was set up. The shuttles now operate in “metro” mode, stopping at every station along their route. 2020 will see the development of an “on demand” mode.

Research results to benefit the deployment of future self-driving shuttles

These various improvements have yielded vitally useful information for the deployment of future self-driving mobile solutions. It was observed that the increase in speed went hand in hand with a reduction in the number of safety stops, resulting in a higher acceptance rate and service improvements. The first version of the extended-perception system has allowed possible problems to be anticipated, and is thus contributing to greater road safety.

Growing recognition

Following these progressive improvements, VEDECOM’s self-driving shuttles have also been guests at a number of events. From 4th-6th May 2019, they were on display in front of the Versailles Grand Parc local government organisation’s offices as part of the first Architecture and Landscape Biennale, organised by the Ile-de-France region. This gave the VEDECOM Tech team the opportunity to introduce the Satory district’s self-driving shuttle service to the public. And on 24th October, the Framboise shuttle was out and about again, being demonstrated at the ALD’s BlueFleet day at the Linas-Montlhéry racing circuit, alongside VEDECOM’s self-driving Zoé car. It was an opportunity for a huge audience of non-experts to see self-driving technology up close. Lastly, the shuttles were demonstrated at the Ministry of the Economy and Finance’s Cour d’Honneur in Bercy on 2nd December at the Automotive Industry Day organised by the PFA (Plateforme française de l’Automobile).

All in all, a packed first year for Framboise and Litchi… and we hope their second will be equally fruitful!

 

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VEDECOM at the controls of the ‘Autonomous Mobility’ area at ALD’s BlueFleet Day

On 24 October 2019 VEDECOM presented its solutions at ALD’s BlueFleet Day. The seventh edition of this key meeting in the world of vehicle fleet management took place at the Linas-Montlhéry circuit. Six different experiences were on offer to visitors for a chance to discuss and experience the challenges of the energy transition and mobility of tomorrow. VEDECOM Tech, the commercial subsidiary of VEDECOM, was responsible for running the ‘Autonomous Mobility’ area: an opportunity to do a bit of training and let Framboise navigate the urban zone of UTAC-CERAM’s brand new technology testing centre Teqmo, dedicated to connected and automated mobility.

The challenge was significant for VEDECOM at BlueFleet Day organised by ALD Automotive, the leader in long-term vehicle rental and management of vehicle fleets. It was about presenting autonomous mobility to a very wide audience who is not necessarily familiar with this type of technology. An entire area was therefore dedicated to level-4 autonomous vehicles: a VEDECOM autonomous Zoé and also Framboise, one of VEDECOM Tech’s two shuttles, usually in service in the Satory district of Versailles. Visitors were able to board one or other of the vehicles for a demonstration.

When they returned, they were set challenges in the form of quizzes to test their knowledge about the autonomous vehicle and new mobility solutions in the VEDECOM Training team’s igloo. For example: “Not counting level 0, how many levels of vehicle automation are there?” or “How many scooter companies currently operate in Paris?” This was an opportunity to show the multiple alternatives and supplements to the vehicles offer, particularly active modes of mobility.

At the end there was a talk by Guillaume Bresson, Director of Driving Delegation and Connectivity at VEDECOM, to shed some light on the autonomous vehicle, its levels of autonomy and predictions for the future according to different time frames.

An extremely beneficial day, allowing hundreds of people to see autonomous mobility up close!

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“Modelling patterns of individual mobility”: Mehdi Katranji defends his thesis

VEDECOM is pleased to announce that Mehdi Katranji will be defending his computing thesis entitled Deep learning in individual mobility”.

His thesis defence will take place on 16 December 2019 at the mobiLAB.

JURY

Mr Alexandre Caminada, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Thesis Supervisor

Mrs Latifa Oukhellou, IFSTTAR, Referee

Mr Marc Barthelemy, CEA, Referee

Mr Fouad Hadj Selem, VEDECOM, Thesis Co-Supervisor

Mr Laurent Moalic, UHA, Thesis Co-Supervisor

Mr Frédéric Precioso, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Examiner

ABSTRACT

Understanding mobility is a major issue for the authorities responsible for organising mobility and urban planning. Our thesis focuses on “individual mobility” – a term we employ in the absence of any formal definition of human mobility. In our introduction, we outline the applications used to enhance our understanding of human mobility, alongside the relevant stakeholders.

This will be followed by an account on the state of the art relating to different transport models. Transport studies are not in a readily usable format for mobility stakeholders seeking to implement mobility solutions or policies. Transport models convert the initial data to deliver information in a usable and workable format. This is then used to determine the prerequisites for creating a learning model: understanding of available dataset typologies, strengths and weaknesses. We will also give an overview of the four-step transport model, in use since 1970, before discussing how methodologies have developed over recent years.

We will then present our own models for individual mobility. These automatic learning models allow us to gain a clearer, more comprehensive overview of individual mobility, without further investigation. The commonality between these different models is that they focus on the individual, in contrast to traditional methods based on locality. We build on the principle that individual people make decisions based on their perception of the local environment.

The final chapter of our paper, our main theoretical contribution, seeks to improve the robustness and performance of these models. In doing so, we study the deep learning methodologies of restricted Boltzmann machines. Following an account on the state of the art relating to this family of models, we explore strategies for their viability in the applications environment.

 

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Demonstration of VEDECOM autonomous shuttles at Bercy

Notable appearances for Framboise and Litchi on Monday 2 December 2019. The autonomous shuttles were at the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Bercy for the Automotive Industry Day organised by the PFA (French Automotive Industry). VEDECOM had been invited there to perform autonomous shuttle demonstrations and present an autonomous vehicle in the courtyard at Bercy, alongside manufacturers’ latest innovations.

A day to help the automotive industry adapt to the profound changes underway

At a perilous time for the automotive industry, professionals in the field fear being stuck between the downturn in the global market and the heavy investment needed to embrace the ecological transition. This was the context behind the day organised by the PFA to give companies in the industry an insight into the main evolutions and the tools available. The aim was to help companies adapt to the profound transformations taking place. The event was held at the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Bercy and was attended by Luc Chatel, president of the PFA and Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy and Finance

VEDECOM and VEDECOM Tech, ambassadors of autonomous mobility

In addition to various talks, stands and new vehicles were on display in the courtyard: electric vehicles, rechargeable hybrid vehicles, hydrogen vehicles… VEDECOM and its commercial subsidiary VEDECOM Tech had a stand there with an autonomous Zoé, the delegated-driving vehicle demonstrator developed by the Institute and regularly tested on the tracks at Satory in Versailles. Framboise and Litchi, EasyMile’s two EZ10 autonomous shuttles with wide perception, implemented by VEDECOM Tech, were used on Allée Jean Monnet to transport visitors through the building complex from the entrance gate to the courtyard. In keeping with its mission, the Training team offered an autonomous vehicle quiz to put everyone’s knowledge to the test.

Focus on VEDECOM’s research activity regarding autonomous mobility

The Institute devotes one of its three R&D domains to driving delegation and connectivity with more than 60 employees across 15 different disciplines. Generating enriched data to validate the autonomous vehicle, multi-sensory perception and decision systems to navigate the autonomous vehicle, reliable and low-latency communication for smart mobility or smart sensors and infrastructure for the connected vehicle… The major strategic approaches deployed by VEDECOM address a variety of themes covering all issues related to the autonomous vehicle.

The Institute is also working on five national projects including the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project, and the SAM project for safety and acceptability of the autonomous vehicle, for which it provides project management. It is also involved in 10 European projects, including Autopilot, AutoMate and Headstart.

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VEDECOM at the “Engineering Complex Preponderant Software Systems” seminar given by the DGA-TA

Gilles Le Calvez, VEDECOM’s Head of Validation and Approvals in Autonomous Mobility, was invited to attend the seventh “Engineering Complex Preponderant Software Systems” seminar, which took place in Toulouse on 16 and 17 October 2019.

He gave a presentation of VEDECOM’s activities in the field of autonomous vehicles, including the MOOVE project. The aim of this project is to make autonomous driving safer by collecting massive amounts of driving data; a business in touch with artificial intelligence, well-placed to contribute to the development of secure software for the automotive sector. This involvement attests to the Institute’s expertise in the development of ground-based autonomous systems, and its place within the French industrial landscape of artificial intelligence.

The event, organised every two years by the Aeronautical Techniques arm of the French defence procurement agency (DGA-TA), gathered together some 300 participants (Ministry of the Armed Forces, institutional and industrial stakeholders within the defence sector) based around the theme of “Impact of new technologies on operating safety and software engineering”. The Ministry of the Armed Forces centre of technical expertise for aeronautical issues had set the key focus of these two days of discussion as the qualification and certification of artificial intelligence alongside its impact on new technologies, their operating safety and embedded software engineering.

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VEDECOM meets with local authorities at the Salon des Maires

This year once again, VEDECOM and VEDECOM Tech have enjoyed an opportunity to meet with local authority representatives at the Salon des Maires exhibition. The yearly national event for public procurement stakeholders was held on 19-21 November 2019 at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in Paris. An ideal opportunity for the Institute to present four innovative solutions to assist local authorities in their deployment of new mobility solutions: Marque ta Route (Mark your Road) and VEDETECT, alongside M’OBS and the interoperable supervisor for autonomous vehicles with enhanced perception.

An exhibition stand delving deep into the key issues facing local authorities

Located within the Transport and Vehicles zone, the Institute hosted an impressive stand at the Salon des Maires et des Collectivités Locales. Equipped with two didactic wall panels featuring both graphic artwork and screens, it gave a complete visual overview of the innovative mobility solutions presented by VEDECOM. Origami fortune tellers were hung from the stand, bearing the message: “when choosing mobility solutions for your local area, don’t leave your decision to chance”.

A somewhat unusual approach which was hugely successful! In the run-up to elections, the exhibition was a well-timed opportunity for VEDECOM to gauge the issues facing different local authorities, in all their diversity.

Marque ta Route and VEDETECT: two of VEDECOM’s award-winning innovations at the Grand Prix de l’Innovation

Among the four innovative solutions presented by the Institute, two were recognised by the Grand Prix de l’Innovation of the Salon des Maires on 22 October and were on show to the general public for the first time.

The “Marque ta Route” software, winner of the First Prize for Innovation in the Buildings/Public Works/Highways category, is a road assets management tool based on the PhD research thesis of Maxime Redondin. It provides a set of tools for reliability analysis and assistance with the replacement of road signage, using retroreflection data to automatically analyse road marking inspections.

The VEDETECT sensor network, created by Julian Garbiso, finalist in the NITC/Information Systems category, is a real-time system for measuring and analysing mobility. It uses artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) to produce mobility measurements (flow, speed and start/end trajectories) that are comparable to results derived from more conventional methods at significantly lower cost. This solution, which will be expanded for use in estimating the density of pedestrians and passengers, will enable local authorities to better regulate traffic, and help them in formulating their transport policy.

Two VEDECOM Tech products: M’OBS and the interoperable supervisor for autonomous vehicles with enhanced perception

VEDECOM Tech also presented two new products. The M’OBS solution by VEDECOM Tech is an evaluation agency for new mobility solutions. It helps local authorities and mobility stakeholders to better understand their environment, to assess the suitability of new mobility solutions and to deliver the best possible user experience.

The commercial division of the VEDECOM Institute also showed a preview of its interoperable supervisor for autonomous vehicles with enhanced perception. Using an interface designed specifically for autonomous vehicles, the Supervisor provides access to a network of sensors installed on roadside infrastructures or in-vehicle systems. It also manages all communications between the different systems. In more concrete terms, it provides local authorities with an affordable and accessible learning and reporting tool to assist with implementing autonomous vehicle trials. It also provides assistance to transport operators and can incorporate new projects being developed by collective autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

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