What's the news?
Renault is using the VivaTech technology and startup conference in Paris to lay out its vision for the future of mobility. Or should that be futures? Renault sees the way we live and drive changing through four key areas; electric mobility, connected mobility, autonomous mobility and new mobility services.
"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. We have a responsibility to propose innovative solutions to address urban environment saturation and to stake out the smart city of the future. Alongside cities, start-ups, 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" said Thierry Bolloré, Renault's CEO.
To help Renault navigate its way into the future(s), it's establishing a new research group called the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab. It's a collaboration between Renault, the Transdev Group, IRT SystemX, the VEDECOM Institute and the University of Paris-Saclay. Basically it's a think-tank to work out how autonomous vehicles can be integrated into everyday life, and what kind of changes they, and we, need to make to get it all to work.
As part of that project, Renault will be setting up an experimental autonomous taxi service, using modified Zoe electric cars, that will shuttle people around carefully defined routes of the Paris-Saclay university campus. The research team will also be working closely with the French government and local community organisations to try and help hammer out a regulatory framework for future autonomous vehicle services.
As well as carrying passengers, the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles will also be expected to carry out deliveries, and so Renault is setting up an experimental delivery service, using its EZ-Flex small electric delivery van, with the French postal service, Groupe La Poste, to test the vehicle and its services. "The trial will involve all ecosystem stakeholders and is designed to develop a common vision covering urban goods mobility" said a spokesperson for Renault.
As well as using real-time tracking and on-board data recorders to work out what sort of routes these delivery vehicles are taking, and how that can feed back into future vehicle design, Renault will also be using the VivaTech conference to show off the EZ-Flex to other potential users, and getting feedback on what sort of functions it can incorporate into the car's modular rear cargo compartment.
Renault will also show off it's EZ-Pod concept - a tiny two seat autonomous vehicle that's been designed for use in closed-off locations such as hotel complexes, campuses, and city centre shopping areas.
As well as these more futuristic solutions, Renault is also looking at more near-term efforts such as a ramp-up in car sharing. Last year, Renault launched its Moov'in.Paris by Renault service, which puts a fleet of on-street Zoes and Twizys at the disposal of members for short-hop urban journeys. There's also the Zity service in Madrid, which uses a fleet of 650 Zoes, and Marcel, an Uber-style ride hailing service which uses exclusively electric Renault vehicles, and Renault Mobility, which opened its electric car sharing service in the Greater Nice Côte-d'Azur region in 2019. The service makes 57 Renault Zoe rental vehicles available 24/7 in four municipalities.
Renault Mobility is also opening up major new electric car charging hubs in major shopping centres in Paris, Toulouse, and Bordeaux.
There's also Karhoo, a company that was awarded by the prestigious European Startup Prize for Mobility In April 2019, which is now backed by Renault. Karhoo is a multi-use booking platform, through which you can book a taxi, a ride hailing service, or even a private car rental. To date, more than 1,500 fleets on six continents with a total of more than 1.8 million vehicles have signed a partnership agreement with Karhoo. In partnership with the French national train service SNCF Mobilités, Karhoo recently launched a new service, "Mon Chauffeur", which travellers can use to automatically book a taxi or ride hailing vehicle to meet up with their train, throughout France.