Located 50 kilometres from Lyon is Transpolis, an 80-hectare “ghost town”. Ultra-equipped, it has just been made available to the inventors of tomorrow’s transport. The aim: to develop innovations in new forms of mobility. This Tuesday, the private and public collaborators who made it possible for it to see the light of day officially inaugurated Transpolis on the former military base of Saint-Maurice-de-Rémens. In this article, Lyko tells you more about this revolutionary project.
A lost city in the Ain plain
The departmental council of Ain bought the former military ammunition storage site to make it available to Transpolis for fifty years. The first phase of work will be completed in the summer of 2018. The site includes a 1.7 km long section of 6-lane motorway. A network of small winding roads in the form of departmental roads. And above all, a 30-hectare dummy town and its 12 kilometers of “streets” including traffic lights, bus shelters and roundabouts. It is in this “no man’s land” that independent vehicle manufacturers, road construction companies, specialists in the dialogue between machines and bus operators test their innovations in terms of new forms of mobility, particularly from the point of view of safety.
“Nobody does that in Europe.”
These are the words used by Stéphane Barbier, director of development of the operating company. This project is intended to be innovative and generate added value. The site is connected with 300 km of optical fibre and has a 5G network. In particular, Bouygues Telecom and Ericsson are testing applications for dialogue between autonomous vehicles and intelligent safety equipment.
The site is not intended for simple vehicle tests, as Stéphane Barbier explains: “There have been plenty of vehicle test sites for years. But we don’t rent tracks to swallow bitumen”. “The whole site is instrumented… We bring added value”.
The development director of the operating company adds: “Everything is flexible and modular: just like in a film studio, we write the script and equip the site accordingly. Indeed, it is possible to widen or reduce the width of the roadway, change the road markings, modify the crossroads, etc. Modulations of the road and weather conditions are also possible.
A windfall for urban mobility stakeholders
Bus operator Berthelet is testing five autonomous shuttles, one of which is to be put into service in the Lyon suburbs. “You can’t test this in real life,” explains Aurélien Berthelet, managing director of the family business, explaining why he became a Transpolis shareholder.
And then, at Transpolis, “we are in a real ecosystem, with other very active shareholders. This makes us grow faster,” adds the manager of this 370-strong SME, which is at the cutting edge of new technologies.
The future reference player for new forms of mobility
This need for a new approach to mobility will lead in 2011 to the creation of a company to carry the Transpolis project, at the initiative of seven partners. Thus, the Lyon CARA competitiveness cluster dedicated to urban mobility systems has invested 18 million euros in the company. The concept has gradually attracted a series of other shareholders, to reach today a total of 25 private and public shareholders and partners.
The “laboratory city”, which was inaugurated on Tuesday, July 2, is already profitable with a turnover of 2.5 million euros and employs only about twenty people. Even before the official inauguration of its site, it was attracting a growing number of expressions of interest, confirming its ambition to become the “benchmark player” for new forms of mobility.