Autonomous driving technology is expected to revolutionise transportation as we know it, and while private vehicle will certainly see more inclusion of the technology on future cars, the tech is more likely to make an impact on commercial vehicles first, especially in urban markets. French car maker Renault is trying to provide a glimpse into this future and has unveiled the Renault EZ-PRO Concept, an urban delivery design study based on autonomous technology. The concept features a series of electric autonomous pods that can be customised to deliver a wide range of goods and services in congested areas.
The Renault EZ-PRO Concept was unveiled at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Germany, and has been designed to replace large vans and medium-heavy segment trucks in urban areas. The automaker says the concept showcases last-mile delivery services as one of the biggest opportunities as e-commerce conntinues to boom in most markets. As retailers aim to reduce delivery costs, and cities trying to reduce traffic congestion, the concept might be the future for urban delivery systems.
While the system negates any human intervention theoretically, the company says the study still features human interaction in the form of a concierge, instead of a driver.
The Renault EZ-PRO concept consists of an autonomous leader pod and driverless robo-pods that follow the leader, like a train but without the physical links. The pods can also move independently and can be customised based on the customer needs. The pods can break away and travel independently to make a dedicated delivery with customers accessing the lockers for a self-delivery checkout options. The concept also comes with real-time tracking option via mobile with alert services for a smoother delivery experience.
(The EZ-PRO Concept does not need a driver but there's space for a 'concierge')
The lead vehicle comes with a seat for the concierge, and also features a joystick instead of a steering wheel to allow manual control, if and when necessary. The leader pod has been designed to operate autonomously, so that the occupant can focus on different tasks including route planning, personalised customer service among others, says the manufacturer.
The EX-PRO concept will be all-electric, which will make for massive emission savings as it replaces larger diesel delivery vans. The latter, Renault says will affect at least 30 per cent of traffic in cities. The pods are powered by rear-drive electric motor and features a four-wheel steering for extra manoeuvrability.
Renault says the EZ-PRO Concept is at least a decade away and previews the delivery systems that will be available in the year 2030. The autonomous systems though will make it to other cars in a nearer future. At present, the automaker already has the Renault Master ZE zero-emissions delivery vehicle, which comes with telematics technology on board. German auto giant Mercedes has also showcased the Urbanetic concept, which features interchangeable pods to cater for courier or passenger carrying requirements.