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Groupe Renault initiates the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project

The Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project was initiated by Groupe Renault, Groupe Transdev, IRT SystemX, Institut VEDECOM and the University of Paris-Saclay. Its purpose is to develop new autonomous mobility services using dedicated lane and public and campus streets to supplement the existing Saclay Plateau transportation systems.

The Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab was inaugurated on 15 May 2019 at the SPRING 2019 innovation event by Grégoire de Lasteyrie, Île-de-France Regional Councillor, Special Delegate responsible for New Mobility and Mayor of Palaiseau; Francisque Vigouroux, Vice-President of the Paris-Saclay urban community responsible for Mobility and Transportation and Mayor of Igny; and Michel Bournat, Mayor of Gif-sur-Yvette and President of the Paris-Saclay urban community. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Thierry Mallet, Chairman and CEO of Groupe Transdev; Arnaud Molinié, Senior Vice President, Mobility Services, Groupe Renault; Paul Labrogere, CEO, IRT SystemX; Sylvie Retailleau, President of the University of Paris-Saclay; Philippe Watteau, Managing Director, VEDECOM; and Elizabeth Crepon, Director, ENSTA.

This first stage of the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project is one of the SAM experiments selected by the French government on 24 April 2019 following the EVRA call for projects under the Investments for the Future (PIA) programme. The SAM experiments are part of France’s national autonomous vehicle development strategy. They are designed to familiarise local citizens and stakeholders with these systems, expand their use and build a regulatory framework that notably includes the safety approval process.

The Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project provides for a late-night public transportation service using an autonomous Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal shuttle that will serve Saclay Plateau neighborhoods from the Massy regional express station. The service will be provided outside the normal operating hours of the regular transportation systems and will use the existing dedicated bus lane.

The service is designed to fit in with the existing transportation systems and extend service beyond their scheduled operating times. It will optimise existing road infrastructure and commercial speed by using the public bus rapid transit lanes. It will also use the existing stops located in the main neighborhoods between the Massy station and the Camille Claudel station in Palaiseau.

A daytime on-demand car service using autonomous Renault ZOE Cab prototype vehicles will be provided on the Paris-Saclay urban campus. People travelling to the campus by public transportation can then use it to freely move around the site. The user can hails a car or books a car ahead of time by using a dedicated Marcel smartphone app. The service is designed to provide a large number of pick-up and drop-off points, which do not interfere with other traffic and are located near (never much more than 300 metres from) the most frequented campus areas.

The Paris-Saclay experiments are designed to identify the requirements for rolling out an autonomous mobility service on a broader scale. The project will focus on two main issues: technology, with an autonomous transportation system comprising two types of supplementary service; and acceptability, with user panels to study ridership. It incorporates advanced technologies in the smart vehicle systems, supervision system, connected infrastructure and secure telecommunications networks.

Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab services will gradually introduce user panels to record user views and expectations (service quality, mobile app usability, in-vehicle comfort, etc.). The exemplary project is located in the Paris-Saclay area, which lends itself to innovation, and involves complementary project participants committed to developing shared autonomous mobility.

The all-electric autonomous Renault ZOE Cab prototypes and Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal shuttle perform the full range of safety-critical driving functions such as detection of other vehicles and pedestrians, intersection and traffic circle management, deceleration and traffic light recognition. They are equipped with GPS-type sensors, LiDAR, cameras, inertial units and self-driving software. They provide full autonomy in specified areas. The experiment is conducted with a safety operator in the vehicle.

The MobiBot by Transdev smartphone app enables the user to track the Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal shuttle trip in real time. It displays the shuttle’s time of arrival at the user’s stop, route simulation and time to destination including any distance to be covered on foot. A Marcel smartphone app specific to the Renault ZOE Cab experiment can be used to book an on-demand autonomous vehicle for immediate or later use. The app directs the user from his or her current location to the nearest pick-up point and indicates the vehicle’s arrival time. Within the vehicle, the app can be used to track the trip and time of arrival at the drop-off point.

Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab vehicles are designed to merge with normal traffic flow and reach compatible speeds while ensuring a high degree of safety in two-way public streets and dedicated bus lanes. To achieve this, the project partners decided to roll out and test connected infrastructure consisting of connected traffic lights, sensors and roadside connectivity equipment (primarily thermal cameras and lidar devices located at 25 strategic points).

The infrastructure provides vehicles and the supervision system with augmented vision to handle unforeseen events. The communicating traffic lights enable the vehicle to adapt its approach speed to traffic light status. To boost pedestrian and cyclist safety, the experiment will envisage to test the use of connected objects such as smartphones and wearables to be taken into account by the vehicle or send alerts to the equipped user.

Supervision from a Central Control Facility located at the Massy station will track operation of the services in real time. The supervisor will display all vehicles in operation, check their status and the status of system components and use the connected infrastructure to anticipate any obstacles along the route and take appropriate action as required. The supervisor can be in direct contact with passengers and interact with them.

The Saclay Plateau mobility system will help enhance the area’s international image. Demand will grow, with the number of Saclay Plateau users and residents expected to surpass 50,000 in 2022 (versus 25,000 in 2016) and some 80,000 in the 2029 timeframe. The number of students is expected to reach 20,000 in 2022 and about 25,000 in 2029.

To address these issues within the not-too-distant future, the public authorities decided, among other initiatives, to expand the use of new types of mobility (shared shuttles, on-demand vehicles, etc.) as part of the public transportation systems.

The Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project is an integral part of this approach. It is designed to demonstrate the suitability of autonomous mobility solutions as part of an existing transportation network, in terms of their performance, complementarity with existing systems and economic viability.

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