Renault Group

Autonomous vehicles: Renault Group opts for different strategies for passenger cars and public-transport vehicles

09 July 2024
3 min
vehicules autonomes
Renault Group unveiled its strategy for autonomous vehicles in spring 2024. Its approach is pragmatic: the technology behind driver assistance systems, automation systems and autonomous driving systems varies considerably. And so does its complexity. As customers will ultimately pay the cost, the Group has decided to separate its research into systems for passenger cars and for public-transport vehicles. Now it has a clear roadmap for its experiments and partnerships, some of which go back several years. Here is an overview of Renault Group’s vision for autonomous vehicles for the years to come.
by Nicolas LE-BOUCHER

A realistic strategy for passenger autonomous cars

There are six levels of autonomous driving, which depend on the extent to which the automation system requires the driver’s input. They range from 0 (no automation) to 5 (no input). In the case of passenger cars, Renault Group has chosen to concentrate its efforts on Level 2 automation, notably with Active Driver Assist.

This system, which is available on most Renault range vehicles, includes contextual adaptive cruise control, i.e. Adaptive Cruise Control plus Lane Keeping Assist and geolocation data interfacing with mapping data. The vehicle, as a result, adapts predictively to the road’s configuration and speed limit, based on combined data from its front camera and maps.

The next level – where the driver could release the steering wheel and do something else while the car drives itself – is not a priority in the near term.

Over the coming years, the recipe will remain the same: Renault will continue to build vehicles with market-leading driver assistance systems to make mobility ever safer and more enjoyable. Their electric and electronic architecture will remain scalable, so the Group will be able to add autonomous driving features if technological breakthroughs enable them and customer expectations warrant them.

Public transport: self-driving minibuses are a forward-looking option for Renault Group

Renault Group is certain that self-driving public transport vehicles make sense. In Europe alone, over 400 large cities will gradually become low-emission zones – but people in them will still need to move around.

Fully autonomous electric minibuses are a sustainable means of transport, and over time will become a cost-efficient alternative, with low CO2 emissions per kilometre and per passenger, alongside existing options (trains, trams and buses). They are also more flexible and can operate safely 24/7 with a remote supervision system operating the entire fleet. The fact that they will not need a driver in the vehicle will offset the additional robotisation and automation costs.

Gilles Le Borgne

Because the shuttles' route is well defined and fully mapped; because they travel at a lower speed, between 30 and 70 km/h; and because they can be supervised remotely, the technical stakes for their traveling "freely" on open roads remain high, but they are much lower than for a private vehicle.

Gilles Le Borgne
Chief Technology Officer, Renault Group

Experiments and partnerships around self-driving shuttles go back several years

The Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab and Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab programmes, which the Group started up in 2017, are two examples of the several experiments Renault Group has been conducting to zero in on the best answer to communities’ requirements.

Alliance Ventures (a corporate venture capital fund operated by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance) invested in WeRide, a one-year-old startup at the time, in 2018. WeRide has since grown into a worldwide standard-setter for Level-4 autonomy – meaning the system can manage driving situations by itself, without a driver in the vehicle, but with someone supervising it remotely.
The more than 700 WeRide autonomous vehicles in service (including 300 minibuses) have driven over 28 million km in Asia, the Middle East, the United States and beyond.

Renault Group is making several experiments to market before the end of the decade Level-4 autonomous vehicles on a large scale. In France, first experiments in real-traffic conditions have been made with WeRide from 26 May to 9 June 2024 in and around the Roland-Garros tennis tournament venue. A another one will take place at Châteauroux in 2026 with EasyMile. Called Mach 2, the project aims to add a fleet of automatic electric minibuses to the Greater Châteauroux area’s public transport system.

vehicules autonomes

“Renault Group is already rolling out its strategy for autonomous vehicles. Thanks to our experiments and partners – the best in their fields – we will be in a position, well before the decade is out, to provide a targeted range of autonomous, low-carbon minibuses to meet growing demand in communities.”

Gilles Le Borgne, CTO, Renault Group

The experiments will lead to a Renault Group line-up, using a robotised electric minibus platform based on All-New Master, before the end of the decade. The platform will be able to integrate automation solutions from EasyMile, Milla, WeRide and other specialist partners.

3 questions for Patrick Vergelas, Automobile Mobility Projects Manager, Renault Group.

Patrick Vergelas

1- What are the main obstacles for marketing autonomous passenger cars?

Level-3 autonomy (hands off the wheel, eyes on the road), still has to deal with three major issues:

  • legislation isn’t ready everywhere and does not cover all driving conditions;
  • questions about whether the driver or carmaker is responsible if the car causes an accident or breaks a rule haven’t been settled yet;
  • the technological complexity still puts the cost of these autonomous cars beyond reach for most people.

2- Are the autonomous driving technologies being trialled in shuttles safe?

Yes, the technologies are safe. The minibuses we are trying out are Level-4. They need to be able to drive on different types of roads – separate, semi-open and open – without a driver in them. To do that, they use cameras, radar, lidar and other technologies to constantly and instantly assess the vehicle’s surroundings (other vehicles, pedestrians, etc.) much more accurately than the human eye, to process information, measure distances, speeds and so forth.

The rule for safety is GAME (Globalement Au Moins Equivalent, “overall at least equivalent”). In other words, the drive needs to be at least as safe as with an experienced driver at the wheel. This is why the minibuses will follow the same principles as transport systems such as metros, which use highly redundant architectures and sensors.

3- What are the Group’s sales targets?

We are not yet at the point where we can start setting specific targets. But we definitely plan to be a prominent player in this segment, starting in Europe. The market is promising: it is estimated at several thousand vehicles by 2035.

Self-driving electric shuttles at Roland-Garros 2024

Renault, one of Roland-Garros’s premium partners, teamed up with WeRide to trial self-driving electric shuttles during the tennis tournament.

The experimental service, from 26 May to 9 June this year, carried fans from the P2 car park (skirting the Bois-de-Boulogne woods) to the Roland-Garros venue, then back to the car park or Place de la Porte d’Auteuil after the games.

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