Autonomous cars are the future, at least in part. Forty years after a Japanese laboratory successfully tested a driverless car (at 30 km/h on a dedicated circuit), technological advances have now made it possible to envisage such vehicles becoming a part of everyday traffic. Unsurprisingly, global giants like Google or Tesla are already making quite a lot of progress in the field.
The agreement signed on 14 September at the prestigious International Motor Show Frankfurt between France, Germany and Luxembourg to establish cooperation on a shared digital testing site for autonomous and connected driving also marks a milestone in the development of this concept.
The aim is to use the existing network to test how well driverless vehicles work, including when crossing the border from one country to another. “The main challenge lies in getting driverless cars to the point where they react accurately to very different environments”, explains Anthony Auert, manager of Luxinnovation’s Luxembourg AutoMobility Cluster. “The markings on the ground are not the same in France, Germany or Luxembourg and neither are the signs, traffic lights or construction site signage. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the behaviour and reaction of autonomous cars are identical, regardless of the environment. The next challenge is to manage connectivity between different networks, both within a single country and between two networks in two different countries. In this regard, we are working on connectivity solutions like ITS-G5, 5G, LTE-V2X and even satellite. ”
For the past few months Luxembourg has focused on this problem by planning tests at several border crossings with neighbouring countries as well as with the Netherlands. Last February, the announcement of a partnership between France and Germany, and the launch of a 70 km test area between Metz (Lorraine, France) and Merzig (Saarland, Germany), fast-tracked the country’s efforts. “Our contacts in Germany, in particular via the cross-border automotive cluster, allowed us to share the progress we were making and to participate in the political agreement between France and Germany. ” This cross-country cooperation was made official on 14 September.
Tests planned for 2018
The test route between Metz and Merzig is now completed by a section from Merzig to Bettembourg, and from Bettembourg to Metz, which closes the triangle, an addition to some 100 km of road, of which 25 km is in Luxembourg.
“At the same time, we continue to approach companies in the sector to define concrete projects and ask how they, as key industry players, can contribute to the development of this concept. Once we have taken stock of their proposals, we can present them to our two partners. ”
These first test cases are expected to be announced before the end of the year, with initial full-scale tests scheduled for 2018.
This flagship European project is in line with common initiatives set up between various EU Member States and the European Commission, such as the Amsterdam Declaration to regulate autonomous driving which was signed in March 2017 on Digital Day in Rome and promotes large-scale cross-border testing of this type of driving.