French consortium to deploy fully autonomous mini buses in Châteauroux

Posted: 31 May 2023 | | No comments yet

Once launched, the fully autonomous mini buses will transform public transport in downtown Châteauroux, by enhancing local mass transit services and promoting easier, safer and more sustainable mobility for citizens.

Keolis autonomous bus

Credit: Benjamin Steimes - Châteauroux Métropole

A consortium comprising of Alstom, EasyMile, Equans, Keolis, Renault Group and StatInf is preparing to launch an innovative, zero-emission public transport service at Level 4 autonomous driving. Known as Mach2, the project has been selected as the winner of the France 2030 call for projects on automated road mobility, connected and low-carbon service infrastructures, receiving support from the French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion and Bpifrance.

Mach2 will introduce a fleet of 6m driverless electric mini buses into the Châteauroux Métropole public transportation network in 2026, making it the first Level 4 autonomous mobility service of its kind in France and Europe. Operating without an on-board supervisor, the service will be integrated into the city centre of Châteauroux, as part of the ‘Horizon’ bus network. Each member of the consortium contributes expertise to the project, with Keolis handling the operation and maintenance of the public transport services.

Mach2 aims to revolutionise autonomous mobility by delivering a reliable public transport service, enhancing safety standards and ensuring compliance with French and European regulations. The project develops larger and faster vehicles compared to current autonomous shuttles, tackles the complexities of emergency vehicle interaction and traffic light integration and redefines supervision to enable a single supervisor to control a fleet, ensuring economic viability.

Understanding the autonomous mobility ecosystem

Furthermore, Mach2 meets public transport requirements, prioritising safety, passenger satisfaction and business development for both public and private stakeholders. The autonomous service seamlessly integrates into the existing Châteauroux ‘Horizon’ bus network, enhancing local public transport and promoting easier, safer and more sustainable mobility for citizens.

The launch of Mach2 signifies a significant milestone in the development of autonomous public transport in France, paving the way for a future market that prioritises automated, environmentally friendly mobility solutions.

Annelise Avril, Director of Marketing, Innovation and New Mobility at Keolis, said: “Keolis shares in this project the expertise acquired by its teams over several years in autonomous mobility. Offering new carbon free shared mobility services is firmly at the heart of our raison d’être. We welcome the commitment of the Châteauroux metropolitan area to integrate this fleet of automated electric mini buses into its public transport network, offering passengers a complementary service and a unique travel experience.”