By Microsoft Customer Stories on March 15, 2017
Filed under Microsoft CityNext
French Cities Cut Drivers Costs by 90 Percent with Intelligent Car-Sharing Solution
The Autolib’ organization is an electric-car-sharing program established by the city of Paris and 63 surrounding municipalities to relieve traffic congestion, reduce noise and air pollution, and provide people with more flexible transit options. Implemented by logistics company IER, the intelligent system based on Windows Embedded connects 72 registration kiosks, 850 rental kiosks, more than 4,300 charging stations, and 2,300 in-car systems to a back-end infrastructure based on Microsoft SQL Server and Windows Server.
Launched in 2009, Autolib’ Metropole is a collaboration between the city governments of Paris, France, and surrounding municipalities. Over the next two years, the group began developing the Autolib’ project, the first electric-car-sharing program implemented in a major metropolitan area in Europe. The program was designed to relieve traffic congestion and provide more flexibility for the 8 million people living in the region. Autolib’ is one of several recent projects to improve public transportation, including a successful bicycle-sharing program called Vélib’ initiated by Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë in 2007. In addition to providing travelers with more options, the programs support the vision of a “greener” city with less noise and air pollution.
The majority of the 2 million residents of Paris are not car owners. However, more than one million people drive in the city each day, most commuting from the suburbs outside Paris for work. “Approximately 70 percent of Parisians do not own cars, yet traffic congestion is huge,” says Vanessa Colombier, Communications Manager at Autolib’. ”So the goal was to reduce car ownership and the pollution that comes with it.”
Finding a place to park presented additional problems. “There are not enough places to park in Paris, which in itself contributes to congestion and emissions,” says Colombier. “About 10 percent of traffic in the capital is due to people looking for a parking space.”
Car ownership was also costly. Autolib’ estimated that car owners paid an average of €5,000 (US$6,707) annually in insurance, parking fees, repairs, and maintenance. Pierre Avril, Deputy Mayor of the City of Malakoff and Vice President of Autolib’ Metropole, says, “We wanted to show people that sharing a car can be a good alternative, and, in the end, if it means fewer cars on the road, then that’s a good thing.”
To offer more convenience, Autolib’ wanted to complement existing transportation services. Although the mass transit offerings are extensive, busses and trains stop running between the hours of 1:00 A.M. and 5:30 A.M. Autolib’ envisioned a car-sharing service that would operate around the clock and fit seamlessly into conventional services. For example, a commuter could take a bus or train into the city for work and then drive a car home.
So in February 2011, Autolib’ Metropole selected the Bolloré Group, a global conglomerate that specializes in transportation and logistics, to handle the Autolib’ project. Bolloré was already marketing the Bluecar, a four-person electric vehicle with a proprietary lithium metal polymer battery. Next, Bolloré tasked IER, its subsidiary, with designing and implementing an intelligent car-sharing system that would connect rental and registration kiosks, electric charging stations, and an in-car system with applications running in a remote data center.
IER faced the challenge of not only designing a completely new, complex solution, but also delivering it within seven months. To meet that goal, the company dedicated a team of 25 developers to the project and chose a Microsoft platform based on the Windows Embedded and Windows Server operating systems and Microsoft SQL Server software.
By using Microsoft technology to connect cars, kiosks, charging stations, and a remote data center, IER could create an innovative, industry-leading new service.
“We needed to integrate cars with an intelligent system so that they could communicate at any time with remote applications and GPS services,” says Christophe Arnaud, Head of Transportation, Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, and Car-Sharing Solutions at IER. “With those requirements it was logical to choose a solution based on Windows Embedded. And because the timeline was so short, we needed to be confident in the quality and robustness of the platform.”
After completing a successful pilot project with 250 cars in October, IER and Autolib’ were ready to go live on December 5, 2011. The car-sharing solution includes kiosks for registration, rental, and car charging, an in-car system, and handheld devices used to monitor and maintain vehicles.
New users can register at any of 72 kiosks located throughout Paris with just a passport or similar ID, a driver’s license, and a credit card. The kiosks, which run Windows Embedded POSReady, connect to a customer-service agent through videoconference. Drivers choose between plans that range from one day to a week, month, or year, and typically complete registration within six minutes. Then they immediately receive an RFID-enabled membership card that provides access to a fleet of 1,800 Bluecar. Currently, Autolib’ has more than 72,000 subscribers, 45,000 of whom are enrolled in an annual plan. A one-year membership costs about €100 (US$138) plus time consumption (€5.5 per half-hour). Autolib’ plans to expand its Bluecar fleet to 2,300 vehicles by the end of April 2014.
After registering, subscribers can use the touchscreen based on Windows Embedded POSReady to reserve a car at one of 850 terminals, each of which connects to four to six charging stations. With 4,300 charging stations located throughout Paris and the surrounding suburbs, subscribers can typically find a vehicle within 500 yards in any direction. Display lights at each station indicate which cars are available, reserved, or out-of-service.
Running Windows Embedded Standard, the Autolib’ in-car system greets the driver by name and sets the temperature and radio stations according to preferences specified during registration. The driver can use the touchscreen to access GPS navigation or call a customer-service agent to find a parking space or request other assistance. The solution provides free parking throughout Paris and its suburbs.
IER designed back-end infrastructure that connects cars, kiosks, and mobile devices to create a simple, personalized, and accessible experience for drivers. The in-car systems and kiosks connect to a remote data center and server computers running Windows Server and SQL Server. The server infrastructure hosts proprietary applications that IER uses to manage telemetry data sent wirelessly from cars, in addition to driver, billing, and subscription information collected from rental and registration kiosks.
The charging stations are connected by cable to the rental kiosks, which use an Internet connection to share data with the control center. A team of 400 maintenance workers or “ambassadors” use handheld devices running on the Windows Embedded Handheld family to remotely connect with the management system. The team monitors car locations and charging levels in real time so that they can help drivers in need of assistance or move charged cars where needed.
The solution ensures optimal flexibility. For example, drivers can pick up a car at one charging station and leave it at another to continue their journey by bus or train. Or they can pick up a car when other transportation services are unavailable. For example, Autolib’ estimates that up to 25 percent of Bluecar trips occur between 1:00 A.M. and 5:30 A.M.
Autolib’ and IER report that urban centers worldwide are interested in the solution, including other cities in Europe, the United States, and Asia. Autolib’ is already planning more enhancements to its own system, including integration with MP3 players and pop-up applications that offer personalized services and location-based promotions.
With an intelligent electric-car-sharing system anchored by Windows Embedded, Paris and its surrounding municipalities are reducing pollution while drivers gain benefits such as lower transportation costs and personalized service. The flexible solution that connects cars with IT and service infrastructure also simplifies implementation and empowers Autolib’ to scale for growth.
Reduces Carbon Dioxide Emissions by 75 Metric Tons
Autolib’ estimates that its Bluecar fleet will replace 25,000 privately owned gas cars, which is expected to measurably reduce pollution. “Because we’re working with an intelligent system based on Windows Embedded, we can monitor each trip, and we can also calculate what the emissions would be for a comparable, fossil-fueled car,” says Marcelo Pera, Project Manager at Autolib’ Metropole. “For example, we estimate that by 2023 we will have completed more than 60 million trips totaling 550 million kilometers. These trips would produce 75 metric tons of carbon dioxide if drivers used gas-fueled vehicles instead of electric cars.”
Cuts Drivers’ Transportation Costs by 90 Percent
Reducing car ownership is improving quality of life in other ways as well. Subscribing to an Autolib’ plan is significantly less costly than owning and maintaining a car, which means more money in the pockets of drivers. “From the point of view of economy, a car-sharing solution is real progress for many families,” says Avril. “Owning a car in Paris costs approximately €5,000 annually, whereas the Autolib’ solution costs about €500—that’s 90 percent cheaper.”
Enhances User Experience
Now, people in and around Paris have greater flexibility and a more personalized service. The solution ensures that not only cars, but each driver’s unique preferences will be available wherever they go. “The intelligent system based on Windows Embedded enables us to provide a service that is shared by many people, yet personalized for each individual user,” says Arnaud. “When you get into an Autolib’ car, it greets you by name and remembers the radio and temperature settings you chose the last time you drove. The solution helps us provide drivers with a feeling of ownership—and that is the biggest innovation of all.”
Better connectivity with multiple technologies and devices simplifies implementation and reduces deployment risk. As a result, Autolib’ can continue to enhance the solution with new features and services. Arnaud says, “Adding new features is easy with Windows Embedded—it’s just a matter of adapting the software layer so that it can communicate with new applications and mobile devices.”
IER looks forward to helping more organizations cut costs and reduce noise and air pollution. Based on Microsoft technology, the flexible solution can accommodate multiple civic and business scenarios. Arnaud says, “We’re looking forward to implementing this intelligent car-sharing solution not just in cities, but also large companies worldwide.”
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For more information about IER products and services, call (33) 1 41 38 60 00 or visit the website at:
For more information about Autolib’ products and services, call (33) 800 94 20 00 or visit the website at:
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