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"Test Driving" the Driverless Vehicle in Biot, France

"Test Driving" the Driverless Vehicle in Biot, France

Four 100% autonomous vehicle prototypes were tested in Biot, France as part of a European program of transportation innovation. We were on board. With its boxy shape, at first sight, the car of the future resembles less the K2000 than a miniature train car, until the jingle of an antique tramway bell that, without warning, gives

EZ10 Driverless Vehicle Prototype, Biot, France

Four 100% autonomous vehicle prototypes were tested in Biot, France as part of a European program of transportation innovation. We were on board.

With its boxy shape, at first sight, the car of the future resembles less the K2000 than a miniature train car, until the jingle of an antique tramway bell that, without warning, gives the starting signal. And this feat of engineering takes off!  

Without a sound the EZ10 prototype starts with all the smoothness of an electric motor. No one at the wheel: Why? There isn’t one! Attached to the front and back windows of the vehicle, the two rows of seats turn their back to the road. All the space is dedicated to the passengers.

Glancing at the insurance sticker attached as though to nothing on the windshield, our hearts skip a beat while watching the road narrow to one lane. Especially as a jogger apparently decides that the 950 meters of freshly poured asphalt used to test these four automatic vehicles, would make the perfect running track. The EZ10 slows, then automatically resumes its cruising speed: 15 km/h or nearly 10 mph at most. It takes the vehicle roughly half the time it would take a pedestrian to go from one end of the track to the other.

Passengers in the EZ10 Driverless Vehicle Prototype, Biot, France

Except that Pierre happens to be there to stroll. This local resident walks Ilia, his greyhound, exactly along the trajectory of our vehicle forcing it to once again slow and stall its speed alongside Pierre’s nonchalant steps.

We have almost come to regret that there is not a driver on board to honk the horn, when Pierre finally turns. “Pardon,” he excuses himself, “I hadn’t heard you arrive. This is an electric vehicle, isn’t it?”   

Even more, it’s a driverless car. “Ah, well,” sighs this not especially astonished octogenarian “you know, I was born in 1931, so I’ve already seen some strange things…”

While deboarding, we wonder if the driverless car, just like wireless phones, does not already belong to a future that had become reality! Even if it was somewhat difficult to curb our Pavlovian “goodbye monsieur,” as we left.

Would you feel comfortable riding a driverless car? In what ways does your community encourage transportation innovation? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Carmen Phillips is a graduate of Oberlin College and is currently pursuing her masters in French Translation at Kent State University. Carmen spent the last year in Lyon, France teaching English to primary school children and had the opportunity to i...

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