First self-driving bus line opens to the public in Paris

The French capital inaugurated its first autonomous shuttle bus service as an experiment in what Paris authorities hope will be the future of public transport.

PARIS, FRANCE (JANUARY 23, 2017) (REUTERS) – Paris authorities presented on Monday (January 23) the first autonomous shuttle bus which will take passengers on a regular line between two train stations.

The self-driving bus will allow passengers, often loaded with suitcases, to commute from Paris’ Gare de Lyon train station across the river Seine to Austerlitz train station.

With only 130 metres on a closed road, the shuttle bus which can carry up to ten people at a time is fully electric and autonomous.

The “EZ 10” driverless shuttle uses a range of LIDAR laser sensors to analyse its surroundings. With a predefined route, the shuttle can close doors, start, drive off and reach its destination while monitoring all around him. The shuttle can adapt its speed and trajectory, apply emergency breaks if an obstacle comes in its way.

“This vehicle will adapt to its surrounding environment and adapt to pedestrians crossing in front of it so it will either slow down or even an emergency breaking procedure, were someone to jump in front of it,” said Marion Lheritier from Easymile, the company behind the autonomous system carried on the shuttle bus.

Jose Gomes has been driving buses around the capital for the past 26 years. He will oversee the smooth operation of the autonomous bus. He thinks this new service offers something new.

“Fewer people come on board, its slower, its electric, it doesn’t pollute and it can be stored away more easily but it will never replace a traditional bus,” Gomes said.

Built and conceived entirely in France, the EZ 10 will not replace the many buses in service in the French capital, its conceivers say.

“The shuttles were conceived as an addition to the already existing public transport services. It answer the first and last kilometre issue. So from a metro station, a bus station, tram station, to the user’s final destination,” Lheritier said.

The presentation took place as Paris authorities imposed traffic restrictions as the capital faced a pollution peak.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, wants to reduce the space cars use in the capital and wants to promote cleaner modes of transport.

“The sustainable city of the 21st century will certainly not look like the city it was in the 20th century. That’s why that when you tackle the issue of air pollution, we need to put the car back at its place, that is a mode of transport like another but not the dominant mode of transport because we know that this produces the congestion and pollution that we see today. So we are building, stone after stone, the city of tomorrow and to experiment autonomous electric shuttle buses which can carry ten to twelve people – it’s public transport – allows to address the question of the mobility of the future,” said Hidalgo’s deputy for transport Christophe Najdovski.

The public will be able to use the shuttle service for free until April 7. The city of Lyon has also been testing a similar autonomous vehicle in its city centre.