On tomorrow’s urban mobility scene, is there a space for a small self-driving robo - vehicle for transporting people or goods? The EZ-POD may well answer this question. Meet the brand-new creation, born out of new mobility research, by Groupe Renault.
Increasing urban density in cities means that we must completely rethink mobility in terms of both usage and services. Downtown areas are becoming increasingly pedestrianized, the use of public transportation and soft mobility services is being encouraged more and more, and car sharing and intermodal transportation are on the rise. With these developments, needs for micromobility increase; in other words the need to travel short distances quickly. Right now, the stars of the micromobility world are bikes, self-balancing unicycles, self-balancing scooters, hoverboards and electric scooters in particular.
With this in mind, the Renault EZ-POD is designed to be an additional on-demand mobility solution for the first and last mile, whether for the transportation of people or goods. It’s a mobility solution that’s sustainable, shared, accessible to all and autonomous!
The defining features of the EZ-POD, compared to other self-driving concept vehicles – like the EZ-GO, the public transportation shuttle, or the EZ-PRO and its delivery pods — are its compact design and adaptability. There are two versions of the EZ-POD: one for personal transportation that seats two and another for goods transportation with a loading capacity of three cubic meters.
Based on a Twizy chassis, the EZ-POD has a minimal footprint, giving it great agility: ideal for mobility needs within enclosed sites such as airports, shopping malls, parking lots and campuses. Its small size also makes it more flexible than a shuttle running along a set route, as several pods can run at the same time to pick up passengers and drop them at their respective final destinations.
EZ-POD combines small size with lots of useable space. The real technical challenge here was about getting rid of the driver’s cabin and incorporating self-driving technology, all while keeping the Twizy’s available volume and compact design. The primary applications for which EZ-POD was designed made it possible to optimize the number of sensors. At the front there’s a camera and a Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system – an instrument with a laser that makes it possible to determine how close an object is and to read the context – at the front to understand the surroundings, and short- and long-range radars at the front and back. Finally, two antennae and a GPS on the roof manage real-time position tracking and connectivity.
As for range, EZ-POD has kept the Twizy’s 6 kWh battery — easily enough capacity for short trips in the city. Since it runs within the boundaries of a set area, EZ-POD is always near a charging point. Compared to a vehicle that’s meant to cover longer distances, range is not a central issue for the EZ-POD.
The prospective applications of EZ-POD are far from being limited to a service offered within enclosed, controlled environments. Its compact size, agility and limited speed can also suit a city environment, allowing it to access pedestrian zones or get close to housing block entrances or driveways.
This is a service that would provide needed solutions for: the elderly, those with mobility issues, someone with groceries, loaded down with luggage or with children in tow, etc.
In these times of intermodal transportation, the EZ-POD can also provide connections between public transportation points like train or subway stations, or even get passengers right to their destination.
Either totally open or with a big side opening, EZ-POD is meant to be user-friendly, and designed to allow passengers to get in and out easily when they need to, called “on the fly” or “on impulse.”
EZ-POD also comes in a utility version to provide delivery services. Its size, which allows it to zip around everywhere, makes it especially suitable for last-mile delivery, the last stage which gets goods to their end recipient. This is a real challenge for cities and businesses, both financially and because of downtown traffic regulations aimed at reducing pollution. Groupe Renault, the pioneer and leader in electromobility in Europe, is already tackling the issue with 4 vehicles suited to last-mile delivery. New concepts specifically designed to meet this need, like the EZ-PRO, which is also autonomous, or the EZ-FLEX , which will soon be trialed in real situations, are showing the way forward.
Within the family of recent innovations from Groupe Renault, EZ-POD is meant to be a learning tool to try out new scenarios, reveal new applications possibilities and bring technologies to maturity for their wider rollout in the future. The United States and China are opening the way for similar experiments for parcels and food delivery. Will France be next with EZ-POD?
Copyrights : Renault Design, Olivier MARTIN-GAMBIER