Renault has premiered its EZ-POD, a small, autonomous, connected and electric robo-vehicle, designed to transport people and goods over short distances. EZ-POD stands out thanks to its small footprint and agility in meeting mobility needs on closed sites, (parking, hotels, shopping centres, campuses), and also in urban settings, (city centres, neighbourhoods and housing estates)
EZ-POD is a “test-and-learn” object whose first user experiments will help evolve the vehicle to meet with their expectations and usages. Inspired by the EZ-GO and EZ-PRO concept-cars unveiled in 2018, Groupe Renault continues to explore new mobility options with EZ-POD, scoping out what could be an autonomous and shared mobility complement for the first and last mile.
The market for mobility services emerged about ten years ago with projections reaching nearly €11 billion ($12.32 billion) in 2020. Opportunities are many, and Groupe Renault is heavily involved in identifying and developing new shared mobility services across the board.
Like electric scooters (for which the regulations are still evolving) or the bicycle, Renault EZ-POD is a limited-speed micro-mobility solution. It’s also autonomous, inclusive and safe. There are a host of applications where the Renault EZ-POD’s agility makes it ideal. Where a shuttle runs along pre-defined routes, several pods can be combined to pick up travellers and bring them to their destination. Because pods are small and drive slowly, they are less obtrusive in a crowded urban environment – making these robo-vehicles flexible in use and socially acceptable.
With the Renault EZ-POD’s limited speed, compact design, and agility, it can provide transportation within pedestrianised environments like airports, car parks and shopping centres, where it will be trialled in dedicated zones. In the future, the Renault EZ-POD could be authorised to drive on some pedestrian streets, or to advance – at very low speeds (under 6 kmph) – right up to the entrance of buildings and houses to drop off people with limited mobility (including elderly people and those with cumbersome shopping, children, or luggage). Another possible use would be as a follower-pod for a “follow me”-type delivery application.
Renault EZ-POD is a functional demonstration device that enables new uses to be explored for autonomous vehicles without a cockpit. It’s a work in progress, and likely to evolve in line with feedback from users, fleet operators and city authorities.
“If we can tailor the autonomous vehicles of the future to our current needs – for instance, as passenger cars – it is certain these ground-breaking devices will generate new uses and applications that emerge as the experiments progress,” explained Frederic Auzas, Robo-vehicle Programme Manager at Groupe Renault.
Built on a Twizy chassis, Renault EZ POD is inspired by the lines of the EZ-GO concept car and the modular platform concept of EZ-PRO. Choosing a fully electric Twizy platform threw up the technical challenge of creating a compact design that eliminates a driver’s cockpit and incorporates the autonomous technology. The vehicle’s low speed and earliest usage scenarios made it feasible to rationalise the number of sensors. Renault EZ-POD is fitted with one camera and one LiDAR on the front to scan the scene ahead, plus short and long-range radars located behind the car’s shiny black front and rear trim. Finally, there are two antennas and a GPS in the roof, for real-time position tracking and connectivity.
The proportions of the overall design manage to optimise a small parking footprint with spaciousness, chiefly thanks to a battery size that has been pared back to the absolute minimum for short urban journeys. The Renault EZ-POD for people transit purposes features a big opening on the side, so people can get in and out easily and fast. Its plain and coloured interior is designed to be durable and easy to clean in the event of shared use.
Renault EZ-POD has the same seats as the original Twizy with coverings of structured plastics or more ecological materials, such as a processed linen floor mat. Passengers are greeted by two screens that provide information about the journey and the interior lighting system enables to play “welcome” and “goodbye” ambiances and well as give status updates on the EZ-POD (e.g. waiting, booked, on a journey).
Renault EZ-POD, designed primarily as a robotized automated platform to provide first and last mile transportation of people, can also be provided in a goods delivery version.