Are driverless taxis the solution to city centre congestion?

Congested city streets may be one less problem Paris faces as the city looks to something straight out of a science fiction movie: driverless taxi cabs. Dubbed “Autonom Cab,” these hyperconnected taxis cost between €230,000 and €250,000 and can hold up to six people. Lyon-based start-up Navya is looking to this 100-percent electric, driverless taxis as a way to ease traffic congestion in crowded city centres like Paris, where the capital’s streets will serve as a testing ground for the first batch of robot-taxis in the third quarter of 2018. Let’s take a look at the impacts this new product will have when it hits the market next year.


The road to robot-taxis

Autonomous vehicles have been heavily researched by manufacturers and equipment developers, as well as companies like Google and Uber, who are currently designing new models for test use across the globe. Even luxury brands like BMW are introducing connected car projects that can assist drivers with their vehicle’s performance, as well as prevent traffic incidents and save on CO2 emissions. In 2014, French start-up Navya debuted and according to a recent article in French newspaper Le Figaro, it was able to raise €30 million in 2016 alone thanks to the help of French automotive supplier Valeo and Keolis, a subsidiary of the SNCF. The company has already used this financing to fund pilot projects for autonomous shuttles in Lyon and La Défense, and it has experiments underway in places like New Zealand’s Christchurch Airport.

When driverless taxis roll out in Paris next year, this will be a revolution for mobility in city centres. The vehicles will act as tour guides offering interactive cultural tours, as well as allowing passengers to directly order museum tickets en route to their destination so they don’t have to waste time waiting in line. As for the taxis themselves, each will be equipped with four radars and over a dozen sensors that transmit data and ensure that each car is operating safely. And while the taxis can travel at an average speed of 50 km per hour, making it easy to navigate through heavy traffic flow, they can also reach higher speeds of up to 90 km per hour. The taxis will also operate in zero-emission mode running on an electric motor of 15 kW and encourage the use of car sharing in urban centres, helping to reduce traffic and carbon emission.

The difference between Navya’s vehicles and those of its competitors, however, is the design. While other companies like Uber worked with existing models, Navya started from scratch and integrated its own sensor and navigation technologies, proving that even small European start-ups can compete with American giants when it comes to imparting real change on the automotive industry.