The inauguration of Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab at Spring: a full-scale test of autonomous mobility services connected to infrastructure

15 mai 2019

The Spring event, held on 15 May 2019, was VEDECOM’s chance to come together with its partners to present the Paris-Saclay Lab experiment that is the result of the EVAPS project. The project aims to develop new autonomous mobility services on dedicated, public, and campus routes as a supplement to existing transport solutions at the Plateau de Saclay. It incorporates the latest technologies in on-board smart systems in vehicles, supervision systems, connected infrastructure, and secure telecommunications networks. It was co-led by the Renault Group, the Transdev Group, the VEDECOM Institute, the SystemX Institute for technological research, and Université Paris-Saclay, with support from ENSTA. It also receives support from the French government’s Investments for the Future allocated to ADEME, as well as the Paris-Saclay urban planning and development authority, the Paris-Saclay urban authority, the department of Essonne, and Ile-de-France Mobilités.

 

Testing a comprehensive autonomous transport system

The Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project was among the selections made by the government on 24 April 2019 following the “Autonomous Road Vehicle Testing” (EVRA) call for projects launched in June 2018 as part of the Investments for the Future programme (PIA). Its purpose is to test a comprehensive autonomous transport system made up of self-driving vehicles (three Renault ZoéCab prototypes and one Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal shuttle), a fleet supervision system, connected infrastructure, and customer applications. The aim is to define the roll-out conditions for an autonomous mobility service at a larger scale. Launched in 2017, the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project was inaugurated on 15 May 2019 at the Spring innovation conference at Centrale Supélec by Mr Grégoire de Lasteyrie, Regional Special Advisor for New Mobilities and Mayor of Palaiseau; Mr François Durovray, Chairman of the Essonne Department Council; and Mr Michel Bournat, Mayor of Gif-sur-Yvette and Chairman of the Paris-Saclay urban authority. Mr Philippe Watteau, CEO of VEDECOM; Mr Thierry Mallet, CEO of the Transdev Group; Mr Arnaud Molinié, SVP of Mobility Service at the Renault Group; Mr Paul Labrogère, General Manager of SystemX; Ms Sylvie Retailleau, President of Université Paris-Saclay; and Ms Elizabeth Crépon, Director of ENSTA, were in attendance. It will continue until the first quarter of 2020.

 

Autonomous mobility services to supplement existing transport offerings

The experiment will be launched gradually, first opening 21 May 2019 to a sample group of users. They will be offered two autonomous mobility services as a supplement to existing transport offerings at Plateau de Saclay:

  • a night-time mass transit service on a separate road (a special TCSP bus road) with a Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal self-driving shuttle that will make stops in Plateau de Saclay neighbourhoods and the Massy train station after regular service hours have ended. From 12:30am to 3:00am, the shuttle will make four stops along a nearly three-kilometre route.
  • There will also be an on-demand car service during the day to supplement regular transport services, provided by self-driving Renault ZoéCab prototypes on the Paris-Saclay campus.

The project is exceptional in that it covers the Paris-Saclay zone, which is fertile ground for innovation, and that it involves collaboration between actors from complementary fields who all share a common drive: the desire to develop shared autonomous mobility solutions. It aligns with authorities’ efforts to develop new mobility systems at Plateau de Saclay by integrating them into public transit offerings. The aim is to demonstrate the utility of autonomous mobility solutions in an existing transport network, as defined by various performance measures, complementarity with existing offerings, and economic measures. Indeed, mobility is a major challenge in this area when it comes to attracting international interest, which is Paris-Saclay’s goal. In addition, the population is growing quickly, which ought to increase demand.

 

Large-scale experiment

For this large-scale experiment, nine kilometres of fibre optic cable were laid down in the experimental zone, as well as four kilometres of electric cable and six kilometres of Ethernet cable. Nearly 200 public street lamps were used, plus 70 temporary poles. Along eight kilometres of road, 25 sites (multi-mode transfer points, traffic light intersections, roundabouts, bus stops, etc.) were outfitted with communication and collection infrastructure. Eighty-five sensors were installed (10 M8 LiDARs, 20 vehicle-detector heat cameras, 20 pedestrian-detector heat cameras, 35 video cameras) as well as 25 roadside units paired with 25 roadside cases holding processing units and network equipment. This RSU + case set designed by VEDECOM, called the VEDECOM Box, processes and communicates upwards and downwards information from the vehicle.

The Renault ZOECab and the Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal shuttle are 100% electric and equipped with autonomous technology. Outfitted with LiDAR sensors, cameras, an inertial centre and self-driving software, they account for all the usual driving constraints: they identify the presence of other vehicles and pedestrians; manage intersections, roundabouts and speed bumps; recognise traffic lights, etc. They are level four (SAE standard: fully autonomous in specific zones). Inside, the vehicles have cameras and information screens to assist passengers during the ride.

This programme represents a total investment of 16.2 million euros, including 5.5 million euros contributed by ADEME as part of the Investments for the Future programme.

 

A major cross-cutting project for VEDECOM

Communicating and smart infrastructure has been designed, installed and developed by VEDECOM, which has also led the entire human factors analysis of the project (relationship between pedestrians and travellers and self-driving cars).

Three teams from the Institute have been called upon for this project, which has already taken 2,500 hours of work over the course of two years:

  • The “New Physical Urban Spaces for Eco-mobility” team, led by Nadège Faul,
  • The “New Usages Laboratory” team, led by Stéphanie Coeugnet,
  • The “New Secure Communications and Cooperative Safety” team, led by Oyunchmimeg Shagdar.

The project makes it possible to assess two main domains: the technological domain, with the set-up of an autonomous and connected transport system; and the acceptability domain, with the sample group to analyse ‘end customers’ level of buy-in to services. The VEDECOM Institute has provided expertise in both domains by offering solutions for true added-value services:

  • research, development, and deployment of smart, connected infrastructure that complements self-driving vehicles; connectivity modules (and more specifically connectivity between roadside equipment and on-board communication modules);
  • development of standardised interfaces with an eye to interoperable supervision;
  • research and development of communication between vehicles and vulnerable road users to ensure detection and safety; collection and analysis of users’ needs and expectations as well as their feedback on the acceptability of proposed services to get an idea of how popular and profitable they will be in the future;
  • research, specifications, and prototyping of the user-friendliness of user interfaces inside and outside the test vehicles (ZOECab and i-Cristal shuttle).

Read the Press Release of the 5 partners of the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project

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