The “SmartShuttle” project is led by a Movin’On Lab community of interest that brings together several partner companies including Orange, Saint-Gobain and Bertolami. These companies are pooling their varied yet complementary expertise to create a mobility service for employees that encourages rest, concentration and collaborative work. Its aim is to reinvent employees’ transport time by making it more useful, which will encourage people to leave their personal or professional vehicle in the parking lot. “We need to travel better with smarter, more considered transport,” explains Alexis Offergeld, Director of Movin’On Lab. “On the SmartShuffle, travel time is no longer lost or wasted, instead, it’s time well spent working, relaxing or socializing.”
Demonstrating that transport can generate both economic value and help the environment by tackling solo car use.
The stakes are high. According to data from the CGDD (Commissariat général au développement durable — the French General Commissariat for Sustainable Development), transport is France’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions and caused 29% of total emissions in 2020 (road travel alone accounted for 95% of these emissions, and more than half of that was from private cars).
The initiative stems from a simple observation: “Today, traveling is simply seen as the time spent getting from A to B, not as useful time,” explains Cédric Seureau, Research Program Manager at Orange. “With this project, we want to show that traveling can be a useful activity, which generates both economic value due to its innovative collective framework and helps the environment by tackling solo car use.”
The first step was taken in 2019 when Orange put forward an experimental protocol to study how users could come to understand and embrace this new type of transport. A route was set up for the Group’s employees to travel between the Rennes and Lannion sites on the first prototype coach. The feedback was positive, confirming the relevance of the idea and the importance means of making travel time more valuable. The modeling of the estimated amount of greenhouse gas emissions avoided through this collective mode of transport is also encouraging.
Providing Comfort and Digital Connection
The lessons learned from this initial trial led to the coach being split into three zones according to passengers’ needs: a space for people to chat, a concentration/quiet zone and a section for meetings at the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle’s design incorporates three key features for users: connectivity, comfort and services. “The project is an opportunity to test two high-performance and innovative window panes, which provide an improved on-board experience,” says Bénédicte Vignon, Head of Marketing & Communication at Saint-Gobain Sekurit Transport. The 4 Seasons glazing used in all the windows aims to provide optimal thermal comfort, all year round. This glazing provides better insulation and reduces the energy consumption linked to heating and air conditioning. Within the SmartShuttle, users can project documents onto a Transparent Screen, which cannot be seen by people on the other side of the wall, thus ensuring documents remain completely confidential.”
The services aspect is being explored by other teams. “Professional transportation is not just about transport, it’s also a matter of experience and services. So, Bertolami is working on a use case that brings together all the approaches developed in recent years,” adds Benjamin Beaudet, CEO of Bertolami. “For the past year, we’ve been experimenting with all the features for professionals who all have different uses and needs, but who all want comfort and connectivity, as well as uses surrounding the stillness of the vehicle.”
Finally, connectivity is “essential to make collaboration and working on board this mobile coworking space easier,” says Patrick Duclos-Montagne, R&D Engineer at Orange and co-leader of the community of interest. “Passengers’ digital experiences are supported by very high-speed connectivity, via an external antenna system combined with a router that connects to 4G and 5G networks and shares the connection inside the vehicle via Wi-Fi.”
A second version of the prototype vehicle is available. The partners are already looking at other functionalities, such as acoustics, while continuing to collect data for future experiments.
By making collective transport more attractive, the project is charting the course for more profitable and sustainable travel, which can optimize passengers’ journey times and reduce the use of private cars.