Concept of the Day: Renault NEXT TWO

February 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

renault next twoBig presentation today from Renault on its vision of an autonomous EV for 2020, and more detail on its Zoe-based prototype. It’s positioned as a delegation of certain driving functions to reduce driver stress, improve safety, and free up driver time to use in-car services such as video-conferencing, online shopping, accessing travel information – with the view to marketplace introduction around the start of the next decade.

The system works in congested traffic on designated ‘protected routes’ at up to 18mph on main roads, with no lane-changing and (note the implications of this) no pedestrians or cyclists (should we expect designated car-zones?).  It includes an auto-parking function which finds a place in a car park (equipped with the appropriate sensors) and then manoeuvres into it, thanks to a camera on the rear-view mirror, a forward-facing sensor which detects markings on the road for positioning, and an all-round ultrasound field, all controlled and integrated by a central processor. It can pick up 3G, 4G, wi-fi, Bluetooth etc via an open-source cloud connectivity system (OS platform-agnostic).

Renault outlines a scenario involving ‘Juliette’, who receives a smartphone alert telling her when to leave for her meeting, how long the journey will take, and the congestion on the way, where ‘delegated driving’ will be permitted. Using her Automated Valet Parking smartphone app, she summons her car to pick her up; it auto-recognises her and adjusts its settings for seat, mirrors, radio etc to her preferences, and its sat nav with head-up display guides her till the delegated driving zone, where it suggests taking over. She enters autonomous drive mode, calls up her working documents and video-conferences a colleague – and when the nav alerts her of further delays, she has the option to switch to her multimodal mobility app. This gives her three options, one of which is to reserve a space in a nearby carpark and buy an e-ticket for the underground; she is guided to the car park and straight to her allocated space, where the valet parking takes  over.

On the way back? This is when it gets a bit more Minority Report. In the delegated driving zone, she passes a billboard advertising a concert and gets the option to buy tickets; then she gets an alert that a friend is nearby, and has a video-call, sharing a photo on a tablet; then her Health & Wellbeing app activates a massage function with relaxed lighting, sounds and scents in the cabin.  I’m surprised she’s not asleep (or irritated beyond belief) by this point, but thankfully the car takes her home (via local tourist information).  Presumably there will be a function so you can stop it telling you about the nearby stately home every time you go past.

Anyway, Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has also been named by the French government as leader of the autonomous vehicles project in its 34-plan ‘New Face of Industry’ programme. First step for the project is to finalise the roadmap by the end of March, then to look at necessary amendments to legislation to allow autonomous vehicles on French roads.

Some discussion about the context; Renault makes the point that different nations see autonomous driving as having different benefits. Japan sees it as a way to keep an ageing population mobile for longer; the Netherlands (and others) are concerned with regulating traffic, with a focus on ‘platooning’; a third group sees it as a safety measure. It points out that Europe is already on the way, with auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection and suchlike to be made mandatory. And “NEXT TWO is a realistic prototype which incorporates technologies that are sufficiently well-developed to be built into production models in the medium-term future,” says Frédéric Mathis, project leader.

Some more news, observations, general notes of interest:

  • Cumbria: a £500,000 investment in EV charging infrastructure to address a ‘black hole’. Nine rapid-chargers, 14 fast-chargers, from central funding. More here.
  • An excellent series of well-thought-out articles this week on commuting from Atlantic Cities. Some interesting points about how the availability of off-peak travel by public transport benefits all travellers in this one and this one.
  • Very nice piece by eco-designer/TV presenter/all-round eco good guy Oliver Heath (no, I don’t know him personally, though he is a fellow Brightonian) on a year with his Vauxhall Ampera. Some insight into how it’s changed his driving style and approach; and 95% of his journeys have been electrically-powered. And he’s charging his car from his domestic rooftop solar array, too. His blog in general is a good resource for anyone interested in eco-building, green design and suchlike.
  • Sheffield’s getting a tram-train. More at Wired.



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