As a consequence of air pollution and road congestion, EPFL laboratories have been working for many years on automatic electric mobility and public transport. A first project called Serpentine failed for legal reasons in Lausanne in the 90s. The adventure was relaunched in 2008 at the EPFL with a research project called CityMobil (2008-2011).
In December 2012, EPFL became the first owner of a commercial shuttle called Navya. Built by Navya (formerly Induct Technology), the vehicle is made for the transport of persons on the “last kilometer”. This first test was conducted using three Navya shuttles, built by Navya (formerly Induct Technology). 1’800 users and campus visitors were able to test a free course over one kilometer connecting the Rolex Learning Center to the Innovation Park. The automatic shuttle travelled by both pedestrian and moderate traffic areas. This demonstration was an important step in the deployment of innovative transport systems.
No specific infrastructure is necessary because of laser radars that measure the distance between buildings and other obstacles. To run these autonomous shuttles, an EPFL start-up was founded under the name BestMile. It offered the first fleet management service designed for robotic public transports.
The prototype has been tested extensively on EPFL campus, allowing EPFL to gain experience to the success of upcoming major projects.
EZ10 by EasyMile
From April to July 2015, a fleet of six autonomous electric shuttles served EPFL campus, from the metro station to the Innovation Park. EasyMile, a joint venture of Ligier and Robosoft, designed and built the vehicles. They ran for the first time on the EPFL campus and transported nearly 6’000 passengers. The route was marked on the ground and traffic lights resolved the delicate passages and grooms were on board to ensure the smooth running of the demonstration. They were also responsible for conducting user surveys.
Leader of this demonstration, EPFL startup BestMile ensured the perfect daily operation of the system and tested its fleet management software from a control center. Between July and August, on the same track, BestMile tested two shuttles operating on demand, thanks to a smartphone app.
European research projects
City Alternative Transport System (2009-2014)
The CATS project aims to develop a new urban transport service based on a new generation vehicle. Its major innovation is the utilisation of a single type of vehicle for two different usages: individual use or collective transport.
The CATS project had a budget of around 4 millions. It associated 10 partners from different countries, coordinated by urban planners GEA Vallotton and Chanard SA in Lausanne.
European project CityMobil2 (2012-2016)
Since September 2012, EPFL participates in the European research project CityMobil2. This project aims to solve a specific aspect of this new network: the first and last mile. This is indeed the weakest link in the system, which often discourages people to use public transport, on departure or at destination. It is in this niche that driverless shuttles manufacturers hope to find their market: university campuses, airports, hospitals, meeting areas, sustainable neighborhoods, etc.
This project entered in a new phase with the organization of a 4-month demonstration in 2015.