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France approves fully autonomous bus for driving on public roads in a European first

The shuttle runs on a short route in Toulouse
The shuttle runs on a short route in Toulouse   -   Copyright  EasyMile
By Tom Bateman

A driverless bus in France has become Europe's first vehicle authorised to operate fully autonomously on a public road.

The driverless EZ10 shuttle, which can carry up to 12 passengers, has been making test runs on a medical campus in the southwestern city of Toulouse since March.

But last week France’s Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari and Ministry of Ecological Transition approved the bus for use without a human attendant on board.

France's transport minister hailed the shuttle as a "European first"

"This is an important step towards real commercialisation of autonomous driving, both on large private sites, as well as on public roads," said Benoit Perrin, general manager of the vehicle's developer, EasyMile.

The authorisation makes EasyMile the first driverless vehicle maker in Europe to be allowed to run an autonomous shuttle among other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists without on-board supervision on a public road, the company said.

Level four

The removal of the human overseer means the EZ10 shuttle now operates at Level 4 of the Society of Engineers (SAE) scale of automation.

At this level, a vehicle is capable of running autonomously within a set of limitations - such as running on a fixed, 600 m route, in this case.

By comparison, the Full Self Driving feature in a Tesla electric car is Level 2 on the SAE scale. This classes it as "partial automation," meaning a person must remain engaged with driving the vehicle at all times.

While on-board human supervision is no longer required, the shuttle can still be subject to "remote supervision," EasyMile said.

This means that in future, a single control centre will be able to manage a fleet of multiple autonomous vehicles, the company added.