Renault explores autonomous mobility services
Groupe Renault announced it is setting up an autonomous mobility service between Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and La Defense, a major business district located 3 km west of the city limits of Paris. The new service will be complementary to the existing transport offering.
The program is supported by the government through the EVRA (Expérimentation du Véhicule Routier Autonome—autonomous road vehicle experiment). Groupe Renault participates in the program via a consortium of the PFA, the French automotive platform, with experiments of electric and autonomous on-demand vehicles in Rouen with the Rouen Normandy Metropolitan Area and the Normandy Region; and on the Paris-Saclay urban campus with the Paris Region (Région Île-de-France) and Île-de-France Mobilités (Public Transport Authority of Paris Region).
This new mobility service follows the signing in June 2019 of an exclusive agreement between Groupe Renault and Nissan with Waymo on autonomous mobility services in France and Japan.
“France is a recognized global mobility leader, and we look forward to working with the Paris Region and our partner Groupe Renault to explore deploying the Waymo Driver on the critical business route stretching from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport to La Défense in Paris, said Adam Frost, Chief Automotive Programs and Partnerships Officer, Waymo.
Hadi Zablit, SVP, Alliance Business Development, said, “Tomorrow's mobility will be electric, connected, autonomous, and shared. Driven by this conviction, we will, with our partner Waymo, work on this major project in coordination with the Paris Region, as well as the stakeholders of the SAM [Sécurité et Acceptabilité de la conduite et de la Mobilité autonome—safety and acceptability of autonomous driving and mobility] experiment program. And, as a French manufacturer, we are very proud to contribute to the influence and evolution of Paris and the Île-de-France region.
Additionally, Groupe Renault, with the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab project (initiated in May 2019 by Groupe Renault, the Transdev Group, IRT SystemX, Institut VEDECOM, and the University of Paris-Saclay), has begun testing its on-demand car service on the Paris-Saclay urban campus. From October 14 to November 8, a panel of around 100 people is using the on-demand car service provided by two electric, autonomous, and shared Renault ZOE Cab prototypes, on the Paris-Saclay urban campus.
The experiment will test the technical aspects of the on-demand mobility service and evaluate its acceptability and adoption by end-users for their daily journeys. The experiment and feedback from the panel is expected to enable Groupe Renault to identify any necessary adaptations to be made to the service, the mobile application, and the vehicles, to improve on-demand, electric, autonomous, and shared mobility services in the future.
This daytime service will allow panelists to move freely around the Paris-Saclay urban campus, operating Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are two vehicles that will be traversing the campus throughout the public trials. One ZOE Cab is equipped with a large fore-wing door that spans the length of the ZOE’s interior, allowing immediate access to front and rear seats; a section cutoff from the rest of the car’s interior for the safety officer so passengers get a glimpse of the future of autonomous mobility—with neither operator nor driver onboard; and car seats fitted with individual screens, speakers, and USB port, designed to create a private compartment for each passenger. The second ZOE Cab comes with a larger rear door on the right-hand side for easier car access (the door is located on the right to ensure passenger safety getting in and out of the car); a modified interior with the front passenger seat facing backwards so passengers now ride face to face; and screens installed inside the car for all passengers to view and use on their trip.
A service-specific, intuitive mobile app aids in making bookings. The smartphone app, Marcel Saclay, designed specifically for the ZOE Cab experiment, enables users to hail a car when they need it or book it in advance. Users indicate their position, destination, and how many passengers they’re booking. The ZOE Cab will stop en route, if necessary, to pick up another passenger for all or part of the remainder of the trip. Depending on where the user is on campus when they place their booking, the app will direct them to the nearest meeting point and provide an estimated time of arrival for the vehicle.
The service is designed to provide considerable coverage of the campus with 12 pick-up/drop-off points that were chosen for their proximity to the most frequented areas and because they won’t disrupt traffic. Once the passenger is in the car, they can follow their trip via the app and know their ETA at the drop-off point.
The ZOE Cabs are equipped with touchscreens to assist passengers during their trip. Whether the screens are private or to be shared among the passengers depends on the car model. The onboard services include ETA and real-time trip display; notification of any additional passengers; temperature settings; touchscreen brightness controls; and music—depending on which ZOE Cab prototype, music will be played through the car speakers or the speakers built into the head-rest of the passenger who chose the music.
The Zoe Cab that is equipped with seats enabling each passenger to get its private bubble comes with a selection of soundscapes based on the technique of auditive neurostimulation: the technology draws on the way human hearing works to pinpoint where a sound comes from. Soundscapes are processed by the brain as if they were in three dimensions, reproducing an accurate rendition of the sounds, making them seem as close to real as possible for a completely immersive experience. Three programs are available: activation, to wake up sleepy passengers; power nap, to help passengers nod off; and relaxation, to help passengers evacuate built up tension.
Participants had to meet specific criteria, including work, study, and/or live on the Paris-Saclay urban campus; and agree to use the service at least eight times throughout the four-week experiment period. The panel had to be representative of the general campus population, so it is made up of university students, teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and admin staff.
Reasons the participants gave for their participation included the desire to alleviate transportation difficulty around the urban campus, interest in having the technology simplify their lives and give them more time, ecological benefits, and excitement to try the new technology.
At the end of the trial period, participants are asked to share what they think about the overall service, mobile booking app, vehicle comfort levels, and on-board services.