Driverless flying taxis, autonomous transport pods, self-driving cars … no longer the realm of science fiction, the technology required to revolutionise the future of both public and private transportation is already being deployed. For RATP Dev, autonomous vehicles are a means of creating new and improved services, enabling the company to meet customers’ ever evolving mobility needs.

Such is the potential of the autonomous vehicle market that investment within the sector reached almost $80 billion between 2014 and 2017* and most major automotive manufacturers, software companies, public transport operators and mobility app developers are attempting to stake out their positions within this increasingly complex ecosystem. Why? Well because disruptive transport technologies offer huge potential benefits, not just in terms of safety, but also to reduce congestion and create smarter, more sustainable cities.

Driverless shuttles for improved intermodal integration

Currently a world leader within the automatic metro sector - transporting 1.8 billion passengers each year – the RATP group is seizing the opportunities that AVs provide to fill in the ‘gaps’ in existing public transportation systems. These include the “first and last mile” of a commuter’s journey, “on-demand” transport and sparsely populated areas with limited footfall. Consequently, one of the group’s main areas of focus is ‘driverless shuttles’. An autonomous shuttle service is presently in operation in Vincennes Woods (Paris) and to date, the group has transported over 80,000 people globally using this type of AV. RATP Dev is preparing its most ambitious project yet in Austin, Texas: the deployment of 6 driverless shuttles, in mixed-traffic, within the city centre. No small feat given the complexity of Austin’s dense urban environment. As these use cases develop, the objective is to create a seamless interface between these vehicles and other transport modes, for example through pricing and ticketing integration.

Safer, smarter and more sustainable

Other developments include the automation of larger vehicles, such as traditional 12-metre long buses, and automated bus parking and tram storage in depots, which promise significant cost savings for operators. The suburban bus line 393, in the Val-de-Marne department southeast of Paris, will see autonomous testing from next year. These initiatives all form part of an overall strategy to seamlessly integrate new types and brands of AV within the existing transport infrastructure, generate new economic opportunities and offer passengers and urban planners a whole new mobility experience. With road accidents claiming the lives of 1.3 million people worldwide each year, RATP Dev’s ambitious AV projects also coincide with its ongoing commitment to passenger safety.

Back to the future

So, what are the next steps for RATP Dev? According to Sam Lysons, RATP Dev’s Autonomous Vehicles expert, “We will continue to harness the potential of disruptive autonomous vehicle technologies to complement our existing transportation portfolio, working in close collaboration and transparency with our clients: cities and Public Transportation Authorities. This includes extending our geographical footprint by exploring opportunities in Europe, the US and the Middle East, all key growth areas for RATP Dev.”

* Source: The Brookings Institution