La Défense: experiment with autonomous minibuses in Paris failed

In the French capital Paris, a test of self-driving minibuses has been unsuccessfully ended. "At the end of the experiment the overall balance was not satisfactory", said the administration of the office city of La Défense in July 2019 (PDF). From July 2017 to May 2019 were the buses of the French manufacturer Navya on the road. The technical advances were too low in the test to ensure operation without human control.

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In addition to the district administration and Navya, the transport company Ile-de-France Mobilités and the transport company Keolis were involved in the attempt. The manufacturer Navya is also involved in numerous test projects in Germany, including at the Berlin Hospital Charité and in Mainz. Recently, the Viennese public transport company had stopped its test with Navya buses because there had been an accident with a pedestrian.

According to the Paris La Défense Communication, there were no accidents during the almost two-year test phase. In December 2017, however, it has one "technical incident" given that led to a six-month forced break, said the administration. In the first half of the year, around 30,000 people used the bus. Of these, 97 percent were satisfied with the offer. 88 percent said they would use it again. From June 2018 to May 2019 around 12,000 passengers were transported.

The reason for the failure is mentioned among other things difficulties with the mobile connection because of the numerous skyscrapers and as well as the rapid change of the environment by events such as the Christmas market or food trucks. Also problematic was the large number of road users in the area, in which pedestrians, cyclists, scooter drivers and service vehicles were traveling.

For these reasons, the vehicle had been unable to adapt to the changes in the environment. Therefore, be a change in the "full autonomy" not possible. Last but not least, the driving speed could not be increased to offer an attractive service. Therefore, the experiment will not continue.

Unlike in Paris, the Berlin public transport companies (BVG) extend their test with autonomous minibuses in the capital. A new line on public roads will be launched this summer in the district of Reinickendorf, reported the Berliner Zeitung, However, the buses should not come from Navya, but from Easymile. Its minibus EZ10 is also involved in numerous test projects for autonomous public transport.