French consortium to deploy autonomous mini buses in Châteauroux

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A consortium of six mobility specialists, Alstom, EasyMile, Equans, Keolis, Renault Group and StatInf, is preparing the launch of a new, zero-emission public transport service operationg at Level 4 autonomy, without an on-board supervisor. A fleet of six-metre driverless electric minibuses will join the Châteauroux Métropole public transport network in 2026. The pilot project has received support from the French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion and will be the country’s first deployment of a Level 4 autonomous service on such a scale. Known as Mach2, the partners say the project marks a decisive step in the development of automated public transport in France and across Europe.

The service will be operational from 2026, serving the city centre of Châteauroux in the department of Indre as part of the city’s ‘Horizon’ bus network operated by Keolis. The autonomous fleet will be controlled by a single supervisor, and the project will be used to demonstrate compliance with the safety standards at French and European levels. It will use six-metre Renault minibuses.

Director of Marketing, Innovation, New Mobility at Keolis Annelise Avril added: “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. We are proud to be involved in this blueprint project, alongside our partners in autonomous public transport.”

Renault Group’s Director of Advanced Engineering Jean-François Salessy, commented: “Renault Group embodies a mobility that is reinventing itself. Opportunities have been identified for automated transport services, without an on-board supervisor, in limited and controlled operational areas that meet the expectations of local authorities and the needs of public transport. In this context, using its experience in the field of electric vehicles and in adapting these vehicles to customer needs, Renault Group has committed to the Mach2 R&D project to develop and supply a platform of robotised electric mini buses ready to be driven by autonomous driving solutions and accessible to people with disabilities, to enable players to deploy autonomous decarbonised public transport services.”