A fleet of six-metre driverless electric mini buses will become part of the Châteauroux Métropole public transportation network in Central France in 2026.
The first deployment of a Level 4 autonomous mobility service at scale, this project, known as Mach2, will be operational from 2026 in the city center of Châteauroux, 150 miles south of Paris, integrated into the city’s “Horizon” bus network, and operated by Keolis.
The consortium brings together French leaders in mobility, each contributing its own area of expertize: Renault Group for the robotized electric minibus platform, EasyMile for the autonomous driving system, StatInf for the validation of critical software elements, Equans for the Computer Aided Dispatch and Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL) system, Alstom for the connected safety infrastructure and communication protocols, and Keolis for the operation and maintenance of these new public transport services.
The consortium says this project addresses all aspects of autonomous mobility, to provide a real public transport service and strengthen France’s leadership in this future market: the vehicle developed will be significantly larger and faster than the autonomous shuttles deployed today. The project also addresses the complex issue of interaction with emergency vehicles and connection with traffic light infrastructures. The supervision concept will be rethought in detail to allow a single supervisor to control a fleet of vehicles and guarantee the viability of the economic model for this new type of transport. All of these elements will be used to demonstrate compliance with the strictest safety standards at the French and European levels.
This project benefits from the official support of Châteauroux Métropole, the Indre department, the Ministry of the Interior and the PFA (Plateforme Automobile), as well as that of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, and Bpifrance. It demonstrates the relevance of this type of technology, including for medium-sized cities.
Stéphane Feray-Beaumont, Vice President, Innovation and Smart Mobility at Alstom said: “To meet the mobility challenges of tomorrow, Alstom develops and promotes sustainable and innovative mobility solutions. In particular, Alstom provides operators with signalling solutions that enable them to ensure the safe and smooth flow of passengers. In this project, Alstom will provide the traffic light interaction system that will make the automated vehicle traffic safer and more reliable. This innovative solution will also allow interaction with emergency vehicles. Called TLS (Traffic Light System), the system has recently obtained SIL4 certification, the highest level of certification for railway safety. Alstom is delighted to bring its expertize and the high standards of the railway industry to automated road mobility through this project.”
Benoit Perrin, General Manager of EasyMile added: “This project is much more than just a technological success. It is a crucial step in demonstrating the value of a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles in a city. By replacing on-board supervizors with remote supervision of multiple vehicles, we will demonstrate the positive economic impact of this type of service. Autonomous technology enables more efficient, accessible and less costly public transportation for communities. This project is a major acceleration in terms of performance and as the consortium coordinator, we are proud to unite the most influential players in the French mobility ecosystem.”
(Picture – EasyMile)