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Could these self-driving vehicles change the future of urban and rural public transport?

Olivier Le Cornec
Olivier Le Cornec   -   Copyright  euronews   -  
By Charlotte Cullen and Thomas Duthois

Navya is a French company that designs and constructs world-class self-driving electric vehicles for both passenger and goods transport.

Unlike Tesla’s "driver-assistance" systems, Navya’s vehicles are truly self-driving with level 4 autonomy, which means no attention from a driver is required.

They have 180 vehicles running around the world, and although they currently operate with an onboard supervisor, in less than 18 months they plan to remove those people from the vehicles, leaving them with only remote supervision.

In this episode of Rethink, Olivier Le Cornec - Navya's Chief Technology Officer - argues that self-driving passenger vehicles will offer inclusive and sustainable mobility solutions for both cities and rural areas of the future.

No competition for existing services

"This mobility is not in competition with mass transit," Le Cornec told Euronews Next. "We are really talking about a mode of transport that is complementary to other types".

One of the proposed benefits of Navya’s passenger shuttles is their flexibility.

The real invention of tomorrow's mobility is in how we design the city to adapt. It is also in the way we use intelligence to link different types of transport together.
Olivier Le Cornec
Chief Technology Officer, Navya

They can provide a service for commuters in the morning rush hour, connecting them to a train station, for example, and then be redeployed during the day, where they could be used to transport elderly people to local amenities.

"It’s a type of mobility which will allow us to extend timetables, serve areas that cannot be otherwise be served… offer a service to different populations that would not otherwise have access," added Le Cornec.

Le Cornec also claims that the cost of Navya’s service is lower than a typical bus service in some areas, offering a solution where traditional services would never be made available.

A greener transport solution for the future

When used to transport commuters to a suburban train line, Navya's electric vehicles could replace 15 passengers' short-distance car journeys. These short car trips are known to be particularly polluting, as cars don’t have the time to warm up.

"We have a vehicle that is environmentally friendly. We have zero exhaust emissions because these are electric vehicles... The creation of this service allows a type of mobility which is more equitable, more sustainable," Le Cornec said.

However, he believes that self-driving vehicles are only one part of the solution for the future of mobility.

"It’s the design of the city that is important, a design that’s inclusive between all the different types of transport," Le Cornec said.

"The real invention of tomorrow's mobility is in how we design the city to adapt. It is also in the way we use intelligence to link different types of transport together".

To see the full interview, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Aisling Ní Chúláin