FRENCH UNDERGROUND AUTONOMOUS BUS TEST A EUROPEAN FIRST

By: Fabian Cotter


IF NOT THE DEEPEST then it’s looking like certainly the most realistic underground autonomous experiment in Europe - if not the world - with the Paris RATP Group, CEA List and IVECO BUS holding the first ever European demonstration in “a fully autonomous garage”, recently.

FRENCH UNDERGROUND AUTONOMOUS BUS TEST A EUROPEAN FIRST
IVECO BUS modified one of its electric hybrid Urbanway vehicles operated by RATP with approval from Ile-de-France Mobilités to be driven electrically and steered autonomously.

The collaboration conducted the 'collective passenger transport' demonstration in a fully autonomous bus depot in the level 3 basement of the Lagny bus centre in the 20th arrondissement in Paris. It was all part of the European Bus System of the Future 2 (EBSF 2) programme launched in 2015 and co-financed by the European Union.

The closest to this test was arguably two years ago when Volvo touted the world’s first driverless truck to operate 1320 metres underground in Boliden’s mine in Kristineberg, Sweden – a challenging but totally different environment to where most buses operate.

REAL-LIFE CONDITIONS

The demonstration is the culmination of a technological research project conducted by all parties with two situations studied in the research project:

1. When the driver arrives at the depot, the bus powers up in autonomous mode, exits its parking space in the level 3 basement and approaches the depot exit. The driver begins their shift when leaving the depot;

2. At the end of the shift the driver leaves the bus at the depot entrance. With autonomous mode activated the vehicle parks itself in the spot assigned by the automatic fleet management system after moving to the underground parking spaces, the organisers state.

There are several points of interest in the demonstration for RATP Group, it’s stated, which could be developed, such as:

- Optimising available space in bus depots located in dense urban areas thanks to tighter vehicle parking made possible by automated systems;

- Assisting bus drivers’ tasks by means of advanced driving assistance systems and, ultimately, changing some of their assignment. For example, actions to take buses in and out the garage.

ALL PARTS PLAYED

IVECO BUS modified one of its electric hybrid Urbanway vehicles operated by RATP with approval from Ile-de-France Mobilités to be driven electrically and steered autonomously.

CEA List also deployed its expertise in artificial intelligence and robotics. The bus is equipped with sensors and an autonomous navigation controller, which makes it capable of locating and steering itself without human intervention while detecting any obstacles, it’s claimed.

Teams at RATP Group steered the overall project, integrated various sub-systems and developed the interface between the bus and the current fleet-management systems to tell the bus about available spaces in the depot. RATP Group also oversaw demonstration safety, it states.

It must be noted that a driver is always on board during tests conducted for the research project to ensure that the experiment worked smoothly and to supervise the system. However, the driver never intervened in the vehicle’s autonomous operation.

The Lagny bus depot in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, is RATP Group’s technological flagship, and will be home to electric buses starting in 2019. The centre was inaugurated in 2016 after a modernisation and extension programme to exemplify the bold RATP policy to modernise its industrial infrastructure and enhance the value of its real estate assets, the company states. RATP combines urban development with city centre industry by building a dense, multi-purpose, sustainable and smart city, it’s stated.

RATP Group has prioritised autonomous vehicles as one of its priority fields of innovation and it aims to become a major partner for smart, sustainable towns and cities.

In addition to the demonstration of ‘autonomous garaging’, RATP Group is currently conducting experiments on driverless shuttles in Bois de Vincennes (Paris’s 12th arrondissement) and at the CEA Paris-Saclay facility.

EN ROUTE TO AUTONOMY

With this European premiere in terms of autonomous bus use, IVECO BUS says it clearly positions itself as a manufacturer at the forefront of innovation and contributes (resources) to, "demonstrate the technological excellence of the French industry dedicated to sustainable mobility". It should be noted that its parent group, CNH Industrial, is deeply involved in several autonomous driving projects in multiple fields of activity, such as driverless farm tractors and the European Truck Platooning Challenge, the company says.

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DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES FOR DRIVERLESS VEHICLES

The digital technologies developed by CEA List help increase the degree of vehicle autonomy, particularly in the fields of sensors, artificial intelligence and secure systems, it’s stated. For example, digital technologies enable the vehicle to perceive its environment and operate under maximum security conditions by integrating and interpreting information.

The ‘Bus System of the Future’ projects (EBSF and EBSF_2) aim to develop a new generation of urban bus systems, organisers state. The aim is to develop and deploy innovative vehicle technologies and infrastructures integrating the best operating practice and which have been tested in operations scenarios in several bus networks in Europe.

Work conducted by project partners in the past three years – trials have concerned more than 150 vehicles – lays the foundations for using new technologies to ensure greater efficiency by bus networks, they add.

"As a coordinator of the EBSF 2 project, Union internationale des transports publics (UITP) would like to congratulate teams in RATP Group, IVECO bus and CEA for their contribution to this unique research program in Europe."

The EBSF 2 project received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 programme in research and innovation.

WHO IS RATP Group?

With 16 million passengers transported daily globally, RATP Group is the fifth largest urban transport operator in the world. RATP Group operates in 14 countries across four continents (France, United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, USA, India, China, South Korea, the Philippines and Qatar). The group operates metro networks (including automatic metro systems), tramway, bus and regional express rail lines.

WHO IS CEA LIST?

CEA is a public research organisation operating in four fields: defence and security, carbon-free energies (nuclear and renewable sources), technological research for industry and basic research. Thanks to its recognised expertise, CEA contributes to implementing cooperation projects with multiple academic and industrial partners. With its 16,000 scientists and staff, CEA is a major player in European research and boasts a growing international presence, it’s stated. List, a CEA Tech institute and technological research hub, focuses research on smart digital systems. In developing cutting-edge technologies, List contributes to the industrial competitiveness of its partners through innovation and technological transfers. www-list.cea.fr.

IVECO BUS

IVECO BUS is a brand of CNH Industrial N.V., a world leader in capital goods listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Milan borsa, it’s stated. A major player in public transport and one of the leader manufacturers in Europe, IVECO BUS designs, manufactures and markets a range of vehicles that specifically meets the needs of private transport companies and public transport authorities: school buses, inter-city systems, line and tourism solutions (Crossway and Magelys), standard and articulated buses and their BHLS (bus with a high level of service) versions. It also boasts a leading position in clean technologies: NGV and Hybrid (Urbanway and Crealis) and minibuses catering to all personal transport requirements (Daily) and chassis intended for body specialist markets, the company says.

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