Renault inks autonomy deal for L4 minibuses

OEM is challenging prevailing industry sentiment with "pragmatic" approach to driverless mobility

Renault inks autonomy deal for L4 minibuses
Renault has struck a partnership with US AD firm We Ride

French OEM Renault Group has signed an agreement with US autonomous driving (AD) company We Ride for an autonomous minibus project, which the firm calls "a relevant and necessary solution for public transport".

Renault has been conducting trials for autonomous public transport solutions for several years and now says it has plans to offer a robotised electric minibus platform based on Renault Master van.

Renault and We Ride will trial remotely supervised driverless minibuses in a shuttle service at the Roland-Garros tennis stadium beginning in May. The use case requires the vehicles to run predictable routes to and from the stadium car parks, which remove the need for traffic navigation, lane positioning, and interpreting road rules.

"Renault Group is initiating a new collaboration with We Ride, a world-renowned expert in autonomous driving, for the large-scale commercial deployment of vehicles with an L4 level of autonomy, i.e. capable of managing driving situations on their own, within an operational defined domain, with remote supervision, but without an on-board operator," the OEM says.

Renault's approach to autonomy is one that diverges sharply from many other OEMs' vision for high-level AD. The automaker characterises its approach as "a pragmatic vision of technology" based on the current limitations and challenges around AD tech, which the firm believes makes public transport the sensible first use case to target — where manageable, repetitive routes present nothing like the challenges of L4 or L5 personal robotaxis.

EV inFocus recently heard from several leading figures in the AD industry about the benefits of these more limited use cases of AD — at least in the short-to-medium term — compared to 'moonshot' robotaxi plans that have taken priority at EV sales market leader Tesla.

Among these AD firms was UK player Oxa, whose chief marketing officer Sheelpa Patel says that more pragmatic use cases such as public shuttles and industrial site logistics are “delivering [AD] where the world needs it most, rather than trying to force a use case on a customer that quite frankly does not want it, does not trust it, and is not ready for it”. In its announcement, Renault echoes this message.

"Innovation only makes sense if it is shared, economically accessible and genuinely useful to as many people as possible," Renault says.
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Renault is not abandoning autonomy in its personal vehicles, however, but says that because of "the "significant technology gap between L2 autonomation and L3 autonomy", its strategy for its personal vehicles will to hone its ADAS systems rather than shoot for the moon with robotaxis.

"In the case of individual vehicles, Renault Group is concentrating its efforts on the L2 or even L2+ level, with several driving assistances that are at the top level of the market," the OEM says.

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