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Inria's CyCab sets out to conquer the roads of Finland

Cycab © CSI / Arnaud ROBIN Cycab © CSI / Arnaud ROBIN

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, pollution and congested roads are the scourge of our cities. To tackle these problems, Inria research laboratories have developed the CyCab, a small autonomous car packed with a multitude of the latest cutting-edge technological solutions. Among its many talents, the CyCab boasts the ability to avoid obstacles placed in its path.

The sound of horns hooting, air pollution, congested streets and roads and noise pollution all add to the stress of the city and have a negative impact on the quality of life in urban areas. To tackle these problems, the European Union launched the CityMobil Project, aimed at developing innovative public transportation systems. The ultimate goal of this is to render life in the city more attractive. One of these solutions, designed to complement bus and metro services, is the cybercar: an autonomous and "clean" car.

These new, alternative vehicles can move around on their own. They are the result of an incredible technological development achieved by Inria's Rocquencourt Research Centre and researchers in the IMARA project-team, who have been working on a prototype, known as the CyCab, for over ten years. The originality of the CyCab lies in the fact that it is driverless. Its movements and operations are controlled by computer. This computer analyses the information transmitted to it by sensors and makes decisions: go forward, stop, turn left or right, etc. The information it needs comes from three different sources: perception, navigation and communication. The CyCab sees the road and adapts its actions accordingly. To do so, it is equipped with a laser and a camera which enable it to both follow road markings and avoid any obstacles, however tiny. To pinpoint its position in real time, the vehicle has an advanced and highly precise GPS system. Each CyCab also communicates via the Web. This means that the vehicles can share information so that they can follow one another at a small distance, or surf the Web and gather real-time traffic information so that they can avoid traffic jams.

During one of the events organised as part of the European CityMobil Project, the inhabitants of Vantaa, in Finland, had a chance to try out this little marvel of modern technology for themselves. In front of Vantaa City Hall, the potential of these revolutionary vehicles could be "test driven" on a 500m full-scale route.

Visitors were able to call one of the three vehicles from a terminal or mobile phone and be taken to a stop along the route. Finland, Norway, Clermont-Ferrand and La Rochelle in France... The IMARA team's CyCab is "on tour" until 2011. Vélib’ and other city cycle hire schemes may turn green with envy!

Keywords: CyCab Project-team IMARA Finlande CityMobil Cybercar