Autonomous cars overcome major hurdle by successfully navigating tollgate for first time

13 July 2017

13 July 2017

As part of work underway to install ‘smart’ road infrastructure to support autonomous vehicles, PSA Group and French tollgate operator VINCI Autoroutes have conducted the first use of a tollgate by an autonomous vehicle in real traffic conditions.

The autonomous Citroën C4 Picasso vehicle crossed the tollgate at 10:30am on Wednesday. By installing a guidance system for traffic moving towards Paris 500m ahead of the Saint-Arnoult toll station – the biggest in Europe – the autonomous car receives information to follow a pre-recorded trajectory guiding the car to the selected autonomous-equipped toll gate lane. In addition, an RSU (road side unit) antenna was installed 300m before the toll station at the edge of the motorway, which is connected to the toll station system and gives permission for the autonomous vehicle to go through the open toll gate. Three lanes of the toll station have now been permanently fitted to accommodate autonomous vehicles.

The developments are part of PSA’s ambitions towards producing Level 4-capable autonomous cars – ones that can operate completely without intervention from a driver within a fixed operating area (say, French motorways with autonomous capable tolls). It follows similar autonomous vehicle work with tollgates in France by Renault, and form’s part of the EU’s C-ITS intelligent transport network plans to upgrade the EU’s road network for use by autonomous vehicles.

Toll zones produce a particular problem for autonomous vehicles, due to the need to directly communicate with the road toll infrastructure, as well as navigate through the toll zone which often has no lane markings to guide it.

The toll station’s existing information system was also modified as part of the test, including the real-time analysis of lane availability, as well as the permissions system to allow the autonomous vehicle to pass, relayed through the RSU antenna. The C4 Picasso was issued with an electronic toll card to pass through the lane in autonomous mode.

Chairman of VINCI Autoroutes Pierre Coppey said: ′For the vehicles of tomorrow to be fully autonomous, they will need to be connected to the smart infrastructures that we are currently inventing. Cooperation between car manufacturers and mobility operators is essential from this point of view.’

PSA director of innovation Carla Gohin added: ′Crossing through a tollgate in autonomous mode is an important step towards level 4 autonomous driving on motorways. This experimentation shows the potential provided by real-time communications between the vehicle and the road infrastructure.’

‘This is the first step [of the project], the purpose being to assess the contribution made by communications with infrastructure for different situations that the autonomous car may encounter on the motorway, such as early warning of roadworks or to facilitate guiding the vehicle to a rest area.’

The tollgate success forms part of a wider ′smart infrastructure’ collaboration between PSA and VINCI Autoroutes to facilitate the autonomous future. It is also working on communication systems to guide autonomous vehicles in a parking area, and systems to communicate traffic conditions to autonomous vehicles to improve safety, such as slow traffic or accidents.

PSA and VINCI Autoroutes are also cooperating with Renault, the EU and the French government on the French technical framework for autonomous vehicle-infrastructure communication (called Scoop) as well as the EU’s C-Roads project for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Both are also playing a role in the standardisation of associated technologies, as well as knowledge sharing projects, primarily through the VEDECOM institute.