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Mach2 consortium will unleash driverless shuttles in France

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A French consortium comprising Alstom, EasyMile, Equans, Keolis, Renault Group and StatInf, is about to launch a fleet of autonomous minibuses. The project dubbed Mach2 includes level 4 autonomy, without a human driver onboard, and is a first in Europe.

The electric minibuses fleet will enter public transport services in the city of Châteauroux in the Indre department in Central France. Keolis will operate the six-metre driverless vehicles built on a robotized platform by Renault when they launch in 2026.

As for autonomy, EasyMile is onboard to deliver the driving system, and StatInf will validate the software. The Computer-Aided Dispatch and Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL) system comes from Equans, with Alstom providing connected safety infrastructure and communication protocols. The latter will also address interactions with emergency vehicles and traffic light infrastructures. Called TLS (Traffic Light System), the system has recently obtained SIL4 certification, “the highest level of certification for railway safety,” explained Stéphane Feray-Beaumont, VP of Innovation and Smart Mobility at Alstom.

Thanks to the Level 4 autonomy, Mach2 marks a “decisive step in the development of automated public transport in France and Europe,” write the consortium members.

While there won’t be human drivers or conductors, a single supervisor will still oversee the vehicles. They will control the minibus fleet and guarantee the economic model’s viability for this new type of transport, writes the consortium. Baudouin Huon, CEO of Ineo Systrans by Equans, added their solutions are used in 250 transportation networks and installed in more than 50,000 buses worldwide. Equans’ role in Mach2 will be to develop its NAVINEO offer “to provide the operator with a system capable of supervising a mixed fleet of autonomous and conventional vehicles in real time”. This includes route management, vehicle status, charge status, and communications with the passengers.

Châteauroux Métropole, the Indre department, the Ministry of the Interior, the PFA (Plateforme Automobile), the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, and Bpifrance are listed as project supporters, demonstrating the relevance of the technology for medium-sized cities, so Mach2. Châteauroux Métropole introduced free public transportation dubbed Horizon in 2001 and considers itself a forerunner of new mobility services.

Mach2 won the France 2030 call for projects ‘Automated road mobility, connected service infrastructures and low carbon’.

easymile.com

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