The first on-demand shared mobility service involving autonomous vehicles in Europe is set to go into action during Q4 2018 following final testing, which is currently taking place in France. The Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab initiative is being undertaken by a consortium comprising: Métropole Rouen Normandie, Transdev Group, Groupe Renault, and Matmut – and is supported by the Normandy Region and Banque des Territoires. The goal is to provide mobility solutions to an area where existing public transport isn’t adequate. Using a ‘first mile’ and ‘last mile’ approach, users will be able to call a vehicle in real-time from a smartphone app and then have access to one of the four Renault Zoe EVs in the trial or an i-Cristal autonomous urban shuttle that has been developed by Transdev and Lohr.

The vehicles will run on three routes covering a distance of 10km, with 17 stops across the district and a link to the Rouen public transportation system. The plan his for the trial to continue until the end of 2019 at which point there will be the opportunity to fine-tune the technology and gain insights into customer usage and take-up among local residents.

Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab is an integral part of the public transportation system provided by the Métropole de Rouen transit authority. The latter's close involvement in the project, which is also backed by the Normandy region, reflects a commitment among local authorities to integrate these new services and step up the transformation toward more efficient smart cities and better quality of life.

The Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab represents a joint commitment by all partners to invest in the future of mobility by pooling their respective expertise and capabilities in support of a pioneering drive to develop innovative, sustainable transportation solutions.

One of the main aims of the initiative is the need to understand the level of acceptance people have for on-demand solutions that use autonomous vehicles. It has been described as ‘ground-breaking’ as it aims to promote shared mobility using autonomous vehicles as part of an existing public transportation system in and around the city of Rouen. The city and the wider Normandy region are hoping that Norman people will be offered ‘an innovative service that is a first in Europe and an initial step toward developing a state-of-the-art industry cluster dedicated to future mobility solutions’.

The transportation system was developed through a partnership between Renault and Transdev, with each providing key expertise. Renault was responsible for the vehicle as well as the autonomous technology and Transdev developed the tracking system, smart infrastructure and secure telecommunications. Transdev is a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts and brings expertise to the project as a provider of transportation services (operation, fleet management and customer relations) and its technologies for autonomous transit systems (supervision, user app, embedded software and smart infrastructure).

The consortium believes that it will be able to build a complete autonomous transportation system in the French region that will provide ‘an open-road service at speeds equivalent to those of conventional vehicles while ensuring passenger safety’.  As well as the user app to request transportation, the system includes a fleet control room, smart infrastructure and secure telecommunications networks. The operator can monitor the fleet from the control room and is able to take action where required – such as to reduce the speed of vehicles or bring them to a halt. Audio and video communications between passengers and the control room will also be possible at any time.

Renault is working with the city of Paris to create electric vehicle mobility solu-tions, using the French manufacturer’s range of EVs.

Staying in France—and with Renault—the City of Paris and the French manufacturer have signed an agreement to develop electric mobility solutions for Parisians, and residents of – and visitors to – the Ile-de-France region. There will be short- medium- and long-term goals, starting in September 2018. Initially, there will be a commercial offer of: an electric ‘VTC’ (chauffeur car) from Renault; a self-service car-sharing electric vehicle fleet that is accessible 24/7 and without stations; or a self-service electric vehicle pool that is part of a carsharing loop, for longer journeys. The offer will be based on Renault's electric vehicle range: ZOE; Twizy; Kangoo van Z.E and Master Z.E. and by the end of 2019, they will represent a fleet of 2,000 electric vehicles.

In a second phase, the City of Paris and Renault wish to initiate an open working group, associating ma-jor cities and companies, whose aim will be to think collectively about the integration of changes in mobility in the city.

"As the European leader in electric vehicles, Renault has also been a player in mobility services for sev-eral years, notably through Renault Mobility and the Zity car-sharing system in Madrid,” comments Thierry Bolloré, executive vice president of Groupe Renault. “We are delighted to be part of the City of Paris' desire to develop electric mobility for all, which is safe and respectful of the environment. This shared vision launches an ambitious model that can inspire many cities in France and around the world.”

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, adds: ”Cities and car manufacturers have a vocation to join forces for the future of mobility. Paris and Renault are now leading the way by converging their action in the are-as of car sharing and electric motors. This constructive agreement is also an opportunity to promote major technological and industrial advances, which contribute to the implementation of the Paris Cli-mate Agreement and create sustainable jobs and activities.”

By John Challen

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