The EZ-PRO: the robotic utility vehicle of the future

Published by on 12.16.2019 - 4 min

Tags : Markets Outlook

What might the logistics of last mile delivery look like ten years from now? Groupe Renault, with nearly 120 years’ experience in the utility vehicle sector, sought to answer that question. The result: an autonomous, 100% electric smart robo-vehicle, who answers to the name of “EZ-PRO.”

What is the EZ-PRO?

Between rapid urbanization and the explosion of online shopping, the transportation of goods needs to be faster, more reliable and more flexible. It must also adapt to ever-more-restrictive traffic regulations in towns and cities. The EZ-PRO, just like the EZ-GO and the EZ-ULTIMO, is an autonomous, electric and connected robot concept vehicle. It was designed for last mile delivery in the sustainable, smart cities of the future.

The EZ-PRO consists of a “leader” pod with a cabin for a human concierge who is in charge of the convoy, followed by autonomous, driverless pods that can be used for delivery or parked in specific places near clients’ locations. The autonomous pods are modular, customizable, and can thus be adapted for a wide range of uses: from that of a mobile coffee truck to a workshop, regularly supplied by a delivery pod, on a construction site.

The EZ-PRO is a shared solution based on a system of delivery hubs, large centers where merchandise is supplied by trucks and trains then sorted and redirected for delivery within a city. Various pods in a single convoy can belong to different professionals and each have their own destination. Another possibility is for multiple people to share a single pod. While electric vehicles guarantee zero emissions as well as silence, the objective is still to maximize the productivity of the pods to limit both delivery costs and superfluous traffic in urban spaces.

Capacity, charging, and range: the technical specifications

The EZ-PRO is 4.8 meters long, 2.1 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall. The robo-pods have a capacity of 12 m3, only slightly less than the larger version, the Master Z.E.. The leader pod, equipped with a cabin for the concierge, offers 6 m3 of storage space.

Just as with the compact EZ-POD, micro-mobility specialist for people and goods, range is not a problem: first of all, because the autonomous pods can be parked in designated spaces for continual charging; and secondly because they are designed to cover short distances within the city from a hub located on the outskirts. Because they are intended to cover short distances, there is no need for a range of hundreds of kilometers…

Lastly, the EZ-PRO was designed to charge through dynamic induction while driving on a road with integrated electrical cables: no more charging station problems!

The robo-vehicle that is reinventing last mile delivery

The issue of last mile delivery is about more than just delivering packages. The EZ-PRO is designed to be flexible and modular, with specialized pods to meet the needs of logistics specialists, storekeepers and final consumers.

The EZ-PRO: a commercial vehicle for every professional

Like a Swiss army knife, the EZ-PRO robot pods are adapted to uses that extend well beyond the simple transportation of goods and final delivery by a concierge. By integrating self-service lockers into a pod, a business could offer clients the option of coming to pick up orders when and where they so choose. This could be used by businesses delivering packages, or dry cleaning services, for example.

A storekeeper could also automate orders with a robot-pod and no longer waste time driving to pick up supplies. For example, a florist could collect their flower deliveries from a wholesaler parked directly in front of their shop. All they would need to do is unload. The robo-pod would then return to the hub to be used by another professional. For home delivery of groceries, several storekeepers could collaborate for shared deliveries.

Thanks to its modular design, the EZ-PRO can also be personalized and adapt to the specific needs of individual storekeepers or artisans. For example, a coffee specialist like Lomi must deliver large volumes of merchandise to dense urban zones each day. The leader pod could deliver supplies to several different establishments, while the robo-pod, transformed into a cafe, would park in one spot for the day, thus creating a space for shared consumption.

The human element

Do we want our deliveries to be made by drones? To open our door and be faced with a robot? Is that even realistic today? Groupe Renault says no. This is why the EZ-PRO is managed by a human “concierge” much like you would find in a luxury hotel, responsible for coordinating deliveries and handing over packages.

“Renault is a human-focused company. The concierge in the leader pod, who is in charge of the convoy, embodies this desire to maintain a human element in last mile delivery. It is a unique position, considering the way the future of logistics is usually imagined. And it is much more reassuring for end clients!” Louis Morasse, Design Director for the LCV range.

Louis Morasse, Design Director for the LCV range.

The autonomous driving capability of the leader pod leaves the concierge free to choose between supervising the fleet of robo-pods during the trip or concentrating on administrative tasks. The interior cabin is designed for working on-the-go, and can be used in two different ways: a seating area on the side acts as an office, while a seat in the front is designed for driving the convoy when the autonomous mode is deactivated.

A vehicle that is connected to the city

The EZ-PRO was designed to be integrated into the ecosystems of smart cities, in which public authorities, municipalities, and private sectors communicate in real time to improve the quality of services offered to citizens, including mobility. The pods are connected to one another, but also to the city’s transport authorities, who have an overall view of the vehicles in circulation. This connection aims to optimize delivery and loading in order to minimize the number of pods in circulation, their rotation, the number of kilometers traveled, and ensure better traffic flow.

EZ-PRO: an autonomous vehicle with a futuristic design

This positive impact on cities is also demonstrated by the EZ-PRO’s design, intended to blend into the cityscape. With its exterior inspired by simple, functional objects and shapes, it was designed to reflect its environment. Visually, the pods are lightened by the satin effect of the bodywork, the streamlined aluminum wheels and the glossy doors. These finishes are reflective, allowing the robo-pods to blend into the surroundings. The platform on which the robot-pod containers sit is a dark gray color, similar to that of road surfaces. Subtle green accents highlight the vehicle’s functional details, such as the door handles and the lugs holding the containers in place.

With the EZ-PRO, Groupe Renault is pursuing its quest for innovative solutions for intelligent mobility that is simultaneously electric, autonomous, smart and shared. The EZ-PRO completely revolutionizes utilization and services. It is also intended to inspire greater reflection and innovation in terms of land use planning and, more precisely, the appearance of cities. Before then, the EZ-FLEX , a compact commercial vehicle equipped with customizable modules, is already ready to be tested as a replacement for the small vans commonly used today.

 

*Zero atmospheric emissions of CO2 or pollutants while driving (excluding wear parts)

Copyrights : Jean-Christophe MOUNOURY, Takuji SHIMMURA, Anthony BERNIER, Julien OPPENHEIM, Olivier MARTIN-GAMBIER