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French companies at vanguard of autonomous vehicle innovation


While companies such as Tesla and Uber have garnered widespread attention for their recent interest in autonomous vehicles (AVs), public transport has long been a pioneer of automation thanks to extensive experience with automated metros.

Indeed, public transport is also now playing a key role in the roll-out of AVs and French companies are at the forefront of this. French manufacturers EasyMile and Navya are world-leaders in AV innovation and French operators RATPTransdev and Keolis are paving the way toward integrated public transport solutions with Alstom also taking a stake in an automated future.

Paris trial represents AV milestone

The past year has seen trials of AVs take place across the world. However, it is French companies that can claim responsibility for a series of exciting advancements surrounding driverless public transport solutions. French operator RATP, working in conjunction with the Paris City Council, recently unveiled two driverless shuttles set to serve passengers in central Paris.

The French AV manufacturer EasyMile has already tested the electric shuttles on closed circuits in Japan and Singapore, but the Paris route represents a huge step forward for the integration of AVs in public transport systems. The shuttles are able to carry up to 12 passengers and will run on the Charles de Gaulle bridge until 7 April. RATP is committed to introducing new routes served by AVs in the coming year.

European success leads to North American expansion

France-based public transport operator Transdev’s driverless shuttles transport up to 4,000 passengers per day in locations throughout Europe. In a partnership with EasyMile, Transdev is planning to introduce AV routes in the United States, putting their cutting-edge technology and logistics to the service of increasing accessibility of public transport systems.

Driverless vehicles can plug multiple gaps that exist in current transport networks. They also create a new low-cost solution that opens mobility options that may never have been considered before”, commented Transdev North America CEO Mark Joseph.

French innovation, French financing

Two French transport companies, Alstom and Keolis, have pledged their support to AV innovation by investing in French AV manufacturers EasyMile and Navya, respectively. Concerning the recent €14m investment in EasyMile, Bruno Marguet, Head of Strategy at Alstom, declared that, “Through this investment, Alstom expands its knowledge into the driverless technologies and pursues its development in the growing field of smart mobility.” EasyMile driverless shuttles have already been deployed in 14 countries across the world.

At the end of last year, Keolis became a minority shareholder of Navya, as part of a €30m capital increase. In January, Navya announced a pilot test of an AV in central Las Vegas, the first time an autonomous bus has ever operated with passengers in open traffic in the United States.

For more information on AVs and their potential benefit to public transport systems see the latest UITP Policy Brief, 'Autonomous vehicles: a potential game changer for urban mobility.' This topic will also be addressed during different sessions at the UITP Summit (Montréal, 15-17 May 2017).