If Delphi and Transdev have their way, your daily commute might involve the phrase, "Time to take the pod to work."
Delphi, an automotive supplier with a strong interest in automation, is teaming up with Transdev, a mobility service company, to bring autonomous transportation to the masses in one of two ways. The pair will offer on-demand autonomous cars in Normandy, France, while also hosting a pilot program at the University of Paris-Saclay that will shuttle commuters between rail stations and the campus. Think of the Paris-Saclay pilot program as focused on sharing rides, with the Normandy pilot focused on sharing cars.
In Normandy, the pair created a public transport service that will serve as a test bed for Delphi's autonomous-car technology, which it developed in conjunction with Mobileye. Members of the public will be able to book time in an autonomous, electric vehicle loaded with radar, lidar and cameras galore. It's an end-to-end service, so it'll take commuters exactly where they need to go.
Things are a little different with the Paris-Saclay pilot. A commuter could check autonomous pod routes and times, just like checking a bus schedule, only the bus has been replaced with a driverless road-train shuttle contraption. The pod connects the commuter to either their location, or to another mobility service that will carry them the rest of the way -- in this specific case, that's a train.
The Paris-Saclay pilot will start with a small number of conventional vehicles, but as development continues, it'll move to a larger fleet of buses and electric shuttles. Drivers will be present in vehicles to start, but the goal is to offer up transportation without any driver at all.
The hope is that these services will be ready for proper public use by 2019, with drivers departing vehicles within the next year. That's a lofty goal, but unlike traditional autonomous cars, the vehicles in this program would still have a central dispatch overseeing every movement. What matters most right now, however, is creating a system that people will want to use -- without butts in seats, it's a harder sell.