- Public transportation operator Transdev announced a partnership with autonomous technology company Torc Robotics for an autonomous shuttle platform that will complement existing public transit service.
- Through the partnership, Torc will license its self-driving software stack (known as Asimov) and its sensor technology for Transdev’s i-Cristal autonomous shuttle. The new platform will help the SAE Level 4 shuttles "seamlessly blend into urban traffic," with a top speed of 19 miles per hour, according to a press release.
- The i-Cristal shuttles will be deployed in two locations in France: Paris-Saclay, where they will operate at night and off-peak hours from the Massy transit station, and Rouen, where they will run a route through a business park and nearby tramway station. The companies hope to fully integrate shuttles into Transdev’s full network, which includes 20 countries.
The partnership, announced Monday at the CES19 trade show in Las Vegas, furthers Transdev’s philosophy of approaching mobility around the acronym PACE: Personalized, Autonomous, Connected and Eco-Friendly. The shuttles — which operate without a steering wheel — will be folded into existing transit networks, a way to not just get the public familiar with autonomous technology, but also to fill in gaps where buses and trains currently don’t run.
In a statement, Transdev’s North America CEO Yann Leriche said "public transport will lead and be the first place real autonomous services will be developed."
Cities outside of Transdev's network are also embracing autonomous shuttles as a micromobility option. Austin, TX, Denver, Detroit and Providence, RI are among the cities that have launched autonomous shuttle pilots to complement transit service. Much as Transdev is touting the shuttles as a new way to get between stops and business parks, Austin is piloting its shuttle network as a connection between two transit hubs and downtown attractions, while Detroit has piloted a system running between downtown business and parking lots, replacing a bus route. The shuttles can run at a lower cost and on a more flexible schedule than a new bus or train service, although the current low speeds limit their impact.
For Torc Robotics, the partnership will help the company’s expansion into consumer products, having also worked to bring the Asimov technology to Lexus and Chrysler for self-driving cars.