Collaboration: the key to the future of on-demand autonomous shared mobility solutions

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) titled its December 2017 report on the reinvention of automotive “The Reimagined Car Shared, Autonomous, and Electric”. We can actually go one-step further, and add another critical adjective to characterize the future of the automotive industry: collaborative.

Last month in Rouen, we welcomed the media to test the first experimental on-demand shared mobility service in Europe to use autonomous electric vehicles on public roads. The initiative, piloted by the Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab, aims to make autonomous on-demand shared mobility services available to inhabitants of Rouen and its surrounding areas, complementing the public transportation offer available.

Currently in its initial testing phase, this service will be open to the public from Autumn 2018, and includes four 100% electric Renault ZOE robo-vehicles, integrating all the usual traffic constraints (other vehicles, intersections, roundabouts, entrances and exits of buildings, etc.) and a dedicated smartphone application, for passengers to book their ride in real time.

The idea is to develop a complete end-to-end system. The scope of the system includes the customer application, the fleet control station, the connected infrastructure, the secure telecommunications networks, the autonomous vehicles and their equipment.

The partner’s common desire

This leapfrog to the future of on-demand autonomous shared mobility services on public roads is the culmination of the advances made by the various partners involved in the project. A public private- partnership, the Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab, is the result of its partners’ common desire to invest in the clean and accessible mobility of tomorrow, by pooling their specific knowledge and innovation capacities, to the benefit of a territory pioneering innovative and sustainable transport solutions. In fact, developing autonomous transport systems requires a number of core competences including dispatch, fleet management, telecommunications, sensors and autonomous driving software, as well as expertise in vehicle manufacturing.

These efforts are actually part of the Mobility Services strategy of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, which aims to become a key operator of robo-vehicle ride-hailing mobility services. As demonstrated by Groupe Renault at the last Geneva Motor Show with EZ-GO, a robo-vehicle and ride-hailing concept, our long-term goal is to develop new services to offer people more choices for mobility and new experiences that go beyond driving their own car, as its role in society could dramatically evolve.

A combination of competences

The fact that the partners of the Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab combine all of these competences is what makes it unique. Groupe Transdev, a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts, brings to the project its expertise as a transport services operator and its autonomous transport systems technologies. The Matmut Group provides its expertise on automobile insurance issues to deepen the discussion on the impact of autonomous cars on tomorrow’s mobility and associated responsibilities.

For the city and its region, the aim is to offer citizens a new innovative service, constituting a European first, and the first step towards the formation of a state-of-the-art industrial cluster for the mobility of the future. For the Caisse des Dépôts Group, this experiment is taking shape as part of its “Smart City” initiative launched in November 2016, which aims to support the broader deployment of innovations.

Groupe Renault is the European leader in electric vehicles, and brings expertise as a car manufacturer, autonomous and connected technologies and mobility services to the project.

For Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, this is not a first. In March 2018, together with Japanese internet company DeNA, we began field tests of Easy Ride, a robo-vehicle ride-hailing service in Japan. The first test was done in the Minatomirai district of Yokohama, in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture, with public participation in order to study operating processes and business schemes. Following the field test phase, there are plans to begin a service in a limited environment at first, and then to introduce a full service in the early 2020s.

To deliver these mobility solutions, we will continue to pursue an open innovation approach with partners as well as the public sector, while leveraging deep R&D resources across Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, so that the solutions presented in Minatomirai and Rouen can eventually be scaled to as many citizens as possible.

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