Renault has been teasing us with a series of self-driving car concepts over the past year but the French automaker at a tech conference in Paris on Thursday revealed how it is making the technology a reality.
Renault has established a self-driving car research unit at the Paris-Saclay technology park located to the south of Paris. Here, Renault and its partners are developing and testing automated transportation services comprising self-driving cars, a monitoring system run by humans, and infrastructure to support self-driving cars.
The research unit is already testing automated transportation services in limited form and is investigating how to scale up the technology. Some of these include a taxi service in the Paris-Saclay campus using self-driving prototypes based on the Renault Zoe electric car, and a night shuttle service between the campus and a local train hub using shuttle buses developed with Transdev.
While both of these services are public, meaning the vehicles will stop to pick up others traveling along the same route, Renault is also developing self-driving concepts for private use. The latest is the EZ-Pod, which as the name suggests is a pod-like car designed to fit two and travel in areas with lower speeds, such as crowded city centers or even within large shopping malls.
Renault EZ-Pod concept
Renault hasn’t said when it will have a paid service up and running, but the automaker’s developments show how self-driving cars, even as limited as they are at present, can already be put to use in restricted areas. These areas can then be expanded as the technology advances and supporting infrastructure like highly detailed maps and car-to-infrastructure communications is added.
“At a time when mobility has never been a more crucial global issue, our role as a longstanding manufacturer of all types of vehicle is more important than ever,” Renault CEO Thierry Bolloré said. “Alongside cities, startups, outstanding partners and public authorities, we see our leadership as a key part of a new history, the history of electric, connected, autonomous and shared mobility serving the public at large.”