Autonomous vehicles on French roads by 2022 ?

Nowadays, mobility is constantly evolving thanks to various innovations and new technologies. The vehicles on our roads have thus gone from automated vehicles to potentially fully autonomous vehicles by 2022 according to the French Minister of Transport Mr Djebbari.

Just as many countries are developing different strategies for the development of new means of mobility such as autonomous vehicles. In 2020, the French government focused on this axis by implementing a development strategy for automated mobility. It aims to make France the privileged place in Europe for the deployment of these latest technologies.

Keys to take up the challenge

An autonomous vehicle must be able to carry out the missions that are asked of it, by itself according to defined rules. He must then perceive the environment and understand it, decide on a maneuver and plan its realization. For this, it is equipped with various sensor technologies which will translate in the form of algorithms that can be understood by the machine, the essential information for driving (road markings, signs, buildings, vehicles, pedestrians, etc.).

To meet the challenge and push private and public actors to develop this type of project, the French government is relying on several emerging laws.

PACTE law (action plan for the growth and transformation of companies)

The PACTE law is a French law introduced by the government of 2019, aimed at making French companies grow and rethinking the place of small and medium-sized companies in French society .

It includes a measure which allows experimentation with fully autonomous vehicles (level 5).

pyramide montrant les différents niveaux d'autonomie des véhicules

It specifies the conditions for the circulation of vehicles and sets those for issuing a traffic authorization. The driving delegation system must be able to be deactivated at any time by the “driver”. If the latter is outside, he must be able to control his vehicle throughout the experiment in order to perform the maneuvers necessary for safety.

In addition, this text implies that during an accident, if the delegation system is activated, the person in charge is none other than the holder of this authorization (and therefore not necessarily the driver). The drafting of these conditions is fundamental, as in other fields using artificial intelligence for example.

LOM law (Loi orientation mobilité - mobility orientation law)

The LOM law fundamentally reforms the general framework of mobility policies, by integrating environmental issues. Developed following the national mobility conference, it has four objectives : getting out of automobile dependence, accelerating the growth of new means of mobility, succeeding in the ecological transition and finally investing in transport infrastructure. 

This law of December 2019 completes this notion of responsibility and provides a legal framework for the approval of autonomous vehicles. 

The government’s roadmap in favor of these vehicles describes around thirty actions aimed at  strengthening this ecosystem in France and making France one of the prime areas for the deployment of automated road mobility services between 2022 and 2025”. 

Already more than 120 experiments have taken place, which has made it possible to identify interesting use cases for these vehicles: shared mobility service, transport of goods…

This represents a double opportunity for France: that of offering mobility that is more suited to demand and cleaner, and that enhance its strengths in the major sectors (automotive, transport services, road, digital) which are at the forefront of innovation at the global level .

Nowadays cars in France still have a driver at the command, it is strictly forbidden by the highway code to allow a vehicle without drivers to circulate on French roads for the moment. On the other hand, this tends to change in the near future because it has been announced that the path to their total autonomy will take place in three phases: Fine service to private and then public sites (2021-2024) / service to the first and last kilometers (2022-2025) / the automation of bus lines (by 2030).

A long way to go

Nevertheless, to achieve this total autonomy, certain stages must be taken. First of all, a milestone to be crossed will be the arrival of 5G, necessary for the proper functioning of vehicles in order to send information between vehicles but also to communicate with the outside world.

By 2022, it is certain that it will not be robot taxis that travel our roads but rather types of autonomous shuttles that will cover small distances as the Toulouse Oncopole has proposed or the autonomous shuttle E-Palette of Toyota being tested in Japan.

What are the objectives of this innovation?

It is undeniable that this innovation will offer new opportunities in terms of mobility. It could also be used in the service of road safety, to save lives because according to forecasts it would reduce the number of accidents. According to a study carried out in 2017 by the ONISR (National Interministerial Observatory for Road Safety in France), humans are responsible for 82% of fatal accidents on French roads. This percentage is estimated at 95% on European roads, according to a report published by the European Commission but beware, self-driving cars cannot be 100% reliable. 

It also has ecological benefits since autonomous cars will be mostly electric, which will result in less carbon emissions during their use. 

Another point that could underline this arrival of new vehicles is from a professional and structural point of view of the company: that of the innovation “Destructive – Creator” because one can wonder if in its entirety the innovation of the vehicles Autonomous companies eliminate trades in the field of automobile construction, transport of people / goods for example? But on the other hand, will it be a vector for the creation of new professions in these fields or other sectors linked to this innovation? 

There are also other brakes or questions to be resolved before its implementation on the market such as the issue of cybersecurity for example. In addition, as with every new innovation, very often, when it affects the safety of people, this type of innovation can take a certain time to be adopted by the populations.

These new innovations also raise the issue of infrastructure and communication to the outside: the roads are still far from being uniform and standardized to accommodate this type of vehicle, the same is true for signage, which can turn out to be complicated.

Some examples of autonomous vehicle projects

Autonomous Taxi (Uber)

Uber has brought out its 100% autonomous taxis project, but it is no longer alone in this market. Major players like Tesla have also decided to innovate in the field of passenger transport.

uber autonome
drone amazon prime air

Autonomous delivery drone (amazon)

Amazon has received the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deploy a commercial drone delivery service in the United States.

Autonomous shuttle 

Navya is one of the leaders in autonomous shuttles, since the company has only tested its vehicles in the world. These are 100% autonomous shuttles, without a safety driver on board.

navette navya
train autonome Hyperloop

Autonomous train 

The hyperloop illustrates innovation in the railway world: half-train in terms of its infrastructure and half-plane in terms of speed. It should see the light of day within ten years.

Autonomous Truck 

IKE wants to offer autonomous trucks for transporting goods on the expressway and does not wish to deal with the first or last km. The aim, therefore, is for logistics companies to use human-driven trucks to transport goods to or from the expressways on which the goods are transported by autonomous trucks produced by Ike.

camion autonome ike
bateau autonome mayflower

Autonomous boat

A 100% autonomous boat is possible: this is the case of the MayFlower which could sail in the Atlantic in 2021.

Autonomous plane 

The ATTOL project of Airbus makes a commercial plane taxi, take off and land autonomously. The development of autonomous intelligence is intended, in the long term, to support pilots in their strategic decision-making by relieving them of routine air operations. Airbus insists that full autonomy of its aircraft is not the goal.

avion autonome airbus

True rolling robot, the vehicle of the future will shock the mobility of people and goods, road safety and urban space. The French government has implemented a strategic plan in order to make this future a present, and thus to be the leader in Europe. However, it will have to face many constraints and obstacles, like any innovation, especially since global competition is fierce in this sector. However, it is undeniable that this represents a development axis with high potential for the mobility of the future. 

This development axis will have a strong “good” impact on societies  with a decrease in the circulation of fossil fuel vehicles, a potential decrease in accidents and the creation of new professions. But also “in bad way”, with the destruction of old professions where Human being will be replaced by the machine and the reliability of the use of artificial intelligence in this field. Many hypotheses and questions still without concrete answers, business to follow in the probably very near future.

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