► Renault showcases its robotaxi
► Self-driving EZ-Go designed to be rented
► Space for six, more convenient than a bus
Forget for a moment that the Renault EZ-Go concept wouldn’t look out of place in Bladerunner, the bigger news here is that this latest zero-emission vision isn’t a car of the future to covet – it’s a robotaxi.
Woah! What’s a robotaxi?
Imagine that those clever little electric Pods at Terminal 5 weren’t constrained by the tracks they had to follow, and instead could go wherever their passengers requested, and you’ve got the idea.
The EZ-Go is an autonomous shuttle for up to six passengers to wherever they wish to go within an urban setting, leaving them free from the hassle of needing to even own and maintain the car, let alone the menial chore of finding somewhere to park it.
Here, at last, is the physical manifestation of what cars of the future could be like for people who have no interest in owning one.
So, the EZ-Go is a car for people who don’t want to own one – how does that work?
Renault points to research that by 2050 an estimated 70% of Europeans will live in cities, many of which are already too cramped, let alone too polluted with CO2 and NOx, to sustain cars as we currently know them.
Combine this with the accepted wisdom that fewer younger people are showing much enthusiasm for either owning cars or even learning how to drive one, and the principle of a robotaxi begins to make sense.
Based on Level 4 autonomous technology, the EZ-Go is able to follow lanes, maintain safe gaps to the vehicles in front and turn at junctions – providing that the urban environment has been prepared for driverless cars, of course. Renault’s fitted its 4Control four-wheel steering system to deliver taxi-like manoeuvrability.
Theoretically, the autonomous tech allows the EZ-Go to travel much close to vehicles its following, helping to reduce the congestion burden that blights many cities.
Capping its top speed at 30mph ensures things shouldn’t get too out of hand, so the robodriver won’t decide to go all Prost-like on its passengers – while adaptive suspension will help ensure comfort for all those on-board.
How do you use an EZ-Go, then?
Based upon the electric vehicle expertise from within the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the EZ-Go has an inherent appeal that public transport can’t compete with – the ability to be taken directly to your choice of destination – yet promises to be more cost-effective than taxi of today.
EZ-Go journeys can be booked by individuals or groups using either apps or at dedicated stations where the cars will also be charged-up, wirelessly to further reduce the hassle for humans. Renault suggests these stations will blend in to their surrounding environments; in reality they look like posh bus stops, but that’s no bad thing.
Making them safer for passengers to use – and reducing the complexity of adding side doors for left- and right-hand drive markets – access to the EZ-Go is via an upward-hinged canopy at the front, tall enough to enable people to walk in before taking their seats.
Passengers are sat in a U-shape to stimulate conversation, no doubt, although with on-board Wi-Fi everyone will be glued to their smart devices anyway…
A ramp also makes it accessible for wheelchair users as well as people manhandling pushchairs or wheelie suitcases.
Once inside it’s all very convivial, and not just because of the seating arrangement. Like modern architecture, the EZ-Go is very glassy in all directions enabling great views out when exploring a city. This is complemented by a large screen at the front in which tourist attractions can be promoted to passengers, as well as indicating who is getting off at which stop.
Naturally, it’s also easy to see in, so bear that in mind if you’re planning on a late-night supermarket shop in your pyjamas and slippers.
This isn’t the last you’ll see of the EZ-Go in the short-term – its modular platform will spawn further concepts in 2018 – but longer-term? Given the current state of autonomous driving tech – and the cities they’ll roam in being hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with them – it’ll be quite a while before you’ll be able to book an EZ-Go.
Be under no illusions, though – the will to make it happen isn’t going away.
More coverage from the 2018 Geneva motor show