Credit: CFL

From Tuesday 7 May 2024, Luxembourg's national railway company, the CFL, will carry out tests in real conditions of their two autonomous shuttles on the Esch-Belval site, where they will become available to customers in 2024.

Following the delivery of the ministerial and municipal authorisations necessary to operate this new type of vehicle on public roads, the CFL is beginning the final phase of testing the two “Ohmio” autonomous shuttles after a year of testing and approximately 4,000 kilometres travelled on the site of the intermodal hub in Bettembourg-Dudelange.

Permanent presence of a “safety steward”

Initially, the tests in Belval are carried out with the sole presence on board of CFL staff. The “safety steward” who will accompany customers during commercial commissioning has been specially trained for this mission by the New Zealand supplier HMI Technologies and has a bus driving license and code 95 (training for professional drivers).

During this first phase of testing in real conditions, the autonomous shuttles will circulate between the stop located at the Belval-Université station and the bus stop at the University. The commercial entry into service provides for a 2.3 km loop covering four stops at the Belval site.

The start of tests on public roads marks the reaching of a new stage in this exciting project. Thanks to these tests, we will be able to gain additional experience with this new technology while relying on the vehicle configuration established during the tests carried out beforehand,” said Carlo Hansen, Head of the CFL Bus Service.

As with their other mobility services, CFL noted it aims first and foremost to guarantee the safety of its customers and staff. The autonomous shuttle test programme is therefore being carried out in this way.

To raise awareness among other users of the public road, signs have been placed along the route in Belval.

The different phases of the project:

• April 2023 - adaptation of the Ohmio shuttles to the Highway Code, installation of the air conditioning module;
• April 2023 - the start of tests (closed circuit) at the intermodal terminal in Bettembourg-Dudelange;
• March 2024 - CFL has all the necessary authorisations and documents for tests on public roads;
• May 2024 - the start of tests on public roads in Esch-Belval.

 During the journey, which is determined by a type of virtual rail, customer safety is ensured in particular by the presence of several LIDAR sensors. This type of device allows the shuttles to constantly interact and communicate with the environment (detection of obstacles, emergency braking, respecting priorities, driving in roundabouts, etc.). The autonomous shuttles are also permanently connected to a control centre.

By experimenting with this new technology, we want to continue to develop our range of mobility services for our customers,” noted Marc Hoffmann, Director of Travel Activities at the CFL. “This type of product allows us to cover the entire journey of our customers, and more precisely the first and last kilometre from and to one of our stations.

The work of many teams

 Following a call for tenders launched in 2020 with the support of Luxinnovation, the New Zealand manufacturer HMI Technologies was selected for its “Lift” autonomous shuttle model from its Ohmio range. The realisation of this pilot project also relies on collaborations with Luxembourg’s Ministry of Mobility and Public Works and the Ministry of the Economy, the municipalities of Esch-sur-Alzette and Sanem, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), the Belval Fund, Agora, Goodyear, IEE and Schroeder & Associés.

The CFL “Ohmio” autonomous shuttles can reach a maximum speed of 25km/h. They have eight available seats and can be used by people with reduced mobility. They are equipped with air conditioning and have a range of approximately 120 km.