Autonomous vehicle: first platooning demonstration in an interoperable military convoy

VEDECOM brought together, on behalf of the Battle Lab Terre, several French industry leaders in Defense. The aim was to implement an autonomous convoy of vehicles using a ‘multi-Follow Me’ mode behind a leading vehicle. The long-term perspective is to deploy interoperable autonomous convoys in theaters of operations while integrating the constraints of the Defense industry.

Project partners: NEXTER Robotics, ARQUUS and CNIM.

An unprecedented partnership launched a year ago

VEDECOM was commissioned as a trusted third party and expert R&D French Institute on the topic of autonomous and electric vehicles. As a matter of fact, this Institute for Energy Transition is located in Versailles, in the Satory district, very close from the army and its suppliers Nexter and Arquus. Its platforms and research teams are dedicated to vehicule electrification, automated and connected vehicles, new mobility solutions.

Located at the heart of the “cluster of innovative mobility” supported by the Yvelines couty, not far from Paris, VEDECOM runs a large ecosystem, integrating Nexter and Arquus.

A consortium between the VEDECOM research institute, VEDECOM Tech (business subsidiary)and the industrialists NEXTER Robotics, ARQUUS and CNIM has been set up. This joint project, entitled MC² for “Micro-convoy in contact”, was coordinated by VEDECOM Tech team.

The role of VEDECOM Tech first, to coordinate all the actors to set up an interoperable convoy and second, to carry out the dynamic assessment of the convoy. The aim is to objectify the behavior of each vehicle in the convoy, to rule on the state of the art and to address key point improvements.

After the technological development, the project was materialized with a demonstration in front of representatives of the Army and the State. This was held on January 28, 2021 on the test tracks of Versailles-Satory.

Various vehicles and robots united by “Follow-me” technology

The convoy used four types of vehicles:

  • a Sherpa Light, the leading vehicle, provided by Arquus,
  • following was the Robot-LAB, on a PVP basis, provided by Arquus
  • then the Optio robot-mule, provided by Nexter Robotics
  • then a Themis 4.5 robot-Mule, provided by CNIM

The three following vehicles were equipped with technological bricks called “Follow Me”, allowing each robot to follow the vehicle in front of it, the “target vehicle”. In the case of a “multi-follow Me” convoy, each robot virtually harnesses itself and autonomously adapts its trajectory and speed in order to form the convoy. Thus, each vehicle builds its own trajectory.

A distinction must be made between “Follow me” technology and traditional ‘platooning’, a term used for autonomous convoys when all the vehicles replay the same trajectory (for example through a GPS track), with a speed setpoint managed globally.

Interoperable and interchangeable convoy

The MC² project aims to demonstrate interoperability in two ways: heterogeneity of vehicles and interchangeability of robots in the convoy.

Regarding the heterogeneity of vehicles, the convoy combined both an 11-tonne 4*4 tactical vehicle, capable of traveling at 110km/h, a 5.5-tonne 4*4 reconnaissance vehicle that can ride up to 20km/h and 2 multipurpose 2-ton tracked robot mules capable of traveling at 18km/h.

Two convoy configurations were implemented to demonstrate the ability of robots to couple to different vehicles.

Dynamic evaluation

VEDECOM Tech used Ultra Wide Band (UWB) technology in order to assess the convoy dynamic behavior. The vehicle movement area has been defined and equipped with geolocated fixed transmitters called “anchors”. The vehicles were fitted with embedded captors so that they could position in the frame of reference formed by the anchors.

All location data was recorded in real time. The post-processing makes it possible to characterize the dynamic behavior of the convoy:

  • speed of each vehicle
  • interdistance between vehicles
  • lateral deviation from the path of the robots

Ruling the French state of the art and increasing the forces’safety

In France, this event marks the first stage in the development of interoperable platooning convoys meeting military requirements and capable of operating in a destructured environment. The main objectives of this approach are to increase the security of forces by optimizing logistics, and to refocus human resources on operations.

Expected applications are long-distance autonomous logistics convoys and autonomous last-mile multi-purpose convoys.

Partners and spokespersons

France prepares to introduce New-Generation Electric Mobility

The main electric mobility players are joining forces to plan and co-ordinate the roll-out of a charging infrastructure for new-generation electric vehicles. It will consist of terminals and information systems adopting the ISO 15118 standard. The end result will be a simplified user experience, improved energy management and greater assurance of system interoperability and security, improving user confidence in charging. All players in the sector will be involved: vehicle and charging station manufacturers, charging infrastructure operators, mobility service providers and electricity suppliers and distributors. The Committee behind this initiative will enable French players to improve their R&D and innovation capability and to give France a presence on the European stage.

A consortium built on new-generation charging technology in France

In a memorandum of understanding signed on 7 June, AFIREV (the French association for electrical vehicle charging roaming)AVERE (the French association for the development of electric mobility, the PFA (Automobile Platform) and the VEDECOM Energy Transition Institute united to form an Initiative Committee for New-Generation Charging, intended to involve the entire French ecosystem. This consortium will also be responsible for implementing technical decisions relating to the ISO 15118 standard at European level, particularly with regard to cybersecurity (PKI).

The French automotive industry supports all the specific measures to give a real acceleration of the deployment of charging infrastructure in France, offer a charging solution to each user and give confidence to future buyers of electric vehicles, says Jean-Luc Brossard, R&D Director of the PFA. These measures must focus as a priority on road charging solutions, in collective housing and on major highways of the national network.

As part of the car recovery plan announced on May 26, the desire to support the ambition of one million electric or rechargeable hybrid vehicles rolling by 2022 is declined in a first objective of 100,000 charge points public by the end of 2021. The future charging infrastructure will have to be homogeneous, interoperable, intelligent, capable of simplifying the user experience and providing services with high added value.”

The role of this Committee is to implement collaborative measures in two stages: firstly, to define the appropriate cybersecurity architecture (PKI) for the new standard, thento support the rollout of Plug and Charge (PnC) and of the  “Smart Charging” system.

AFIREV Chairman Gilles Bernard explains: “Today, it is essential for us to work together so that we can move to this new stage in the deployment of charging infrastructure and develop a unified approach across Europe. An initial group of around fifteen players will come together around 2020, being further strengthened in 2021-22 by all players in the sector.”

The Committee has mandated VEDECOM, as a research institute which already has a strong involvement in future recharging work, to provide technical and economic co-ordination and implement these initiatives.

From left to right, 1rst row : Claude Renard (EV Charging Infrastructure Deployment Coordinator, DGEC, French Ministry of Transition Ecologique et Solidaire), Gilles Bernard (AFIREV Chairman), Tony Jaux (Chairman of the Board of VEDECOM), Joseph Beretta (AVERE Chairman), Jean-Luc Brossard (R&D Director PFA) ;
2d rang : Mourad Tiguercha (Concentus consultant for VEDECOM), Joe Matta (VEDECOM Project Manager New-Generation Electric Mobility), Nicolas Leclère (PSA Group, CSTA 2 Group Leader for the PFA), Prof. Féthi Ben Ouezdou (VEDECOM Scientific Director), Roch El Khoury (VEDECOM Electrification Domain Director).


Rolling out a smart, interoperable charging infrastructure

For France, the Committee’s ultimate goal is to create conditions favourable to the introduction of new energy services, ensuring that all new alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) charging points installed in France can be interoperably ISO 15118 compatible and that Charge Point Operators (CPOs) and Electric Mobility Service Providers (eMSPs) can supply Plug and Charge (PnC) and Smart Charging services.

To achieve this goal, this project will specify the technical requirements for the deployment of PnC and Smart Charging, based on international standards.

In the words of AVERE Chairman Joseph Berreta, “the electric mobility ecosystem is now reaching an important stage in its development. To reach maturity, the market must be able to roll out new charging services that will improve and simplify the user experience while improving the integration of electric mobility into the electrical system.

These major developments require the deployment of coherent public policies which include support programmes.

In addition to its considerable enhancement of communication between an electric vehicle and a charging infrastructure, the ISO 15118 standard provides drivers with new services:

  • Plug and Charge (PnC), which automatically identifies the user’s service contract simply by connecting the charging cable between the vehicle and the charging point, with a high level of electronic security and a simplified user experience;
  • Smart Charging, whereby a charging schedule can be negotiated between the charging point and the vehicle, optimised according to their technical constraints, the driver’s needs and requirements, pricing constraints and the networks’ electrical constraints;

A new, simple, innovative and secure protocol which supports future innovations

Today, a pass card is generally needed for charging. In future, regardless of the vehicle, charging infrastructure operator or electricity supplier, Smart Charging will work independently of this system, providing quick, fluid and secure operation.

VEDECOM Director General Philippe Watteau believes that “we are ready: the charging point-to-vehicle communication process using ISO 15118 works, and is backed by most of our European partners. The new generation of charging infrastructure brings major challenges in terms of authentication, security and trust, but also of deployment and interoperability. We are going to address these issues incrementally, drawing on the existing infrastructure. However, we have yet to jointly specify and promote the best PKI infrastructure. In a second phase, we will be able to build on this work and innovate disruptively,” he adds.

That’s because the Initiative Committee for New-Generation Charging’s second objective is to facilitate the future deployment of emerging use cases, including:

  • bidirectional charging, which uses the charging infrastructure to negotiate and optimise the reinjection of electricity stored in the battery to the house (vehicle-to-home), the building (vehicle-to-building) or the electricity network (vehicle-to-grid);
  • cable-free charging (inductive or automated charging).

Download the Press Alert (PDF)