It’s 5:47 p.m., 14th March 2017 and I’m waiting at the stop “Charlemagne”. I’m ready for a 100% electric and autonomous experience with the shuttle of Lyon called NAVLY. A vehicle developed by the start-up Navya, in cooperation with the world leader in passenger public transport, Keolis, and sponsored by the City of Lyon and SYTRAL. According to the information shown on the timetable, the shuttle picks up passengers every ten to twenty minutes depending on rush-hour traffic.
NAVLY: let the test begin!
As soon as the little shuttle arrived, the passengers got off with their suitcases (I learned afterwards that it was a test visit!).
Photo session with Junior (yes, it’s his real name!) the shuttle’s programmer. Junior (who was so helpful) used to work for the public transport network in Lyon, known as TCL, as a bus driver. Since December 2016, he has been part of the NAVLY team. I admit that I was a little worried before getting on a driverless shuttle but I soon felt reassured. There are six of us on board.
As soon as we get moving, the monitor passes us a form where we have to write our name, email and postcode. The shuttle can’t operate without a monitor on board due to current legislation in France. If the shuttle encounters an obstacle, it beeps and the monitor takes control. During the journey, this happened once when a couple got too close to the shuttle. The monitor said that it’s quite a rare occurrence.
There are five stops along the circuit and the total distance covered is 1,350 m. The speed isn’t very impressive as the shuttle travels between 5 and 20 km/hour. However, Junior warned me that it’s forbidden to stand during the test phase of the shuttle as braking can sometimes be a little sharp, despite the slow speed. The duration of the journey takes about 10 minutes, so I’ll let you calculate the average speed.
Users: some are just curious but some are regular users of the shuttle
So, what’s maximum capacity of this mini autonomous pod, bearing the city of Lyon’s colours? 15 people, including 4 standing passengers. For the experimental phase, due to finish at the end of 2017, the maximum seating capacity will be 11 seats. Today, there are 2 shuttles running. After the second stop, the programmer of the 2nd shuttle came to join us. The 2nd vehicle had a problem with its lever, (it’s just like the old PlayStation joystick) which the shuttle’s maintenance team had to look at it. As soon as we arrived at the terminus “Magellan”, just after the stop “Sucre”, we set off on the return journey straight away. On the return journey, there are just 4 of us. Including Junior!
I can’t help asking if there are passengers that use the shuttle every day. I’m not surprised to hear that it’s mostly people who are just curious to try out the shuttle, but apparently there are some are regular passengers. What also caught my attention in the shuttle was that it has a touch screen. You can see where you are as you travel from A to B, the different stops, the journey time and the speed. As I can see Junior frequently pressing on the screen I ask him if the shuttle is really autonomous.
His reply is “yes and no”. The monitor presses on one of the stops and the vehicle knows where to stop. It then takes 20 seconds before it moves onto the selected stop. The journey came to an end and as we returned to the stop where we originally got on, we were greeted by a remarkable sunset.
Let’s conclude :
It was a very interesting experience and I thoroughly recommend it. It helps you to test an example of the latest innovation in mobility. You can feel that it’s still in the experimental stages and that it’s the first step towards longer circuits. In any case, I’d like to thank Junior for all his help, I really had fun! And now, I’ll let you discover NAVLY for yourselves.