Those of you who think of driverless cars and buses as the stuff of sci-fi dreamers with no immediate practical use need think again as a French company prepares to bring the vanguard of its driverless transport program to American and, specifically, San Ramon’s Bishop Ranch.
In a pioneering program long envisioned by writers and readers of this site the company, EasyMile, is bringing two of its shiny, electric-powered and driverless shuttle vans to America for use at Bishop Ranch next summer – if all goes well during preliminary testing and adjustment at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.
Known as Shared Driverless Vehicles (SDVs), the French imports use high-definition internal mapping software much like their American cousins to “learn” their routes and use a panoply of onboard sensors to avoid pedestrians and other obstacles while in transit.
EasyMile has several of the low-speed EZ10 shuttles transporting pedestrians grateful for the ride in use at various locales in France, Finland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. At one location, the shuttles travel around an amusement park. In another, they take day-trippers from a parking lot to a beachfront.
Test runs on the site of the former Naval Weapons Station – suddenly a hot property for car makers and tech companies looking for wide-open spaces on which to run their prototypes, will ensure the French-made SDV’s adhere to regulations imposed on driverless vehicles laid down by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
As with other cars currently being tested by Google and other makers, the French imports will be fitted with a steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator for use by a human operator in the event of an emergency.
EasyMile, product of a joint venture between carmaker Ligier Group and high-tech company Robosoft, has also partnered with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to bring the pioneering Bishop Ranch project to fruition. The CCTA has reconfigured much of the old weapons station for testing purposes, with the French imports rolling over test tracks in use by Honda and under scrutiny by Tesla and Apple.