Renault unveils vision for autonomous driving, valet parking

The Next Two is the French carmaker’s take on the future of personal mobility, one where the car takes the strain, giving its driver and passengers more free time and less road rage.

The compact electric prototype, based on the current Renault Zoe, is a showcase of what Renault believes will be standard features by the end of the decade. As Renault’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, explained: “With Next Two, we wanted to combine the worlds of delegated driving and connectivity. Not only will autonomous driving enhance safety, but it will also free up time for drivers. Being connected will enable them to make the most of this extra time by providing them with access to new in-car services such as video-conferences, on-line shopping, travel information and more.”

The car’s autonomous systems are built around what the company describes as simple but ingenious sensor technologies. Their primary functions are to enable the car to take over responsibility for driving in congested traffic at speeds of up to 18 mph (30km/h); and a fully automated valet parking system.

This would mean taking care of every element of the maneuver, including locating a suitable space. It would also enable the car to collect its owner simply with the push of a button within a smartphone app.

To keep the driver and occupants entertained and engaged while the car takes the strain, the Next Two is hyper connected, providing high-speed internet access so that everyone on board can work or play and make the most of their time.

“Everybody is looking to save time, particularly when it comes to driving. Next Two has consequently been designed to help occupants optimize the way they manage their time and ensure that wasted or lost time becomes useful or enjoyable by freeing up opportunities to relax, educate oneself, have fun or work,” explains Frédéric Mathis, the man in charge of the Next Two project.

There are still a number of obstacles that need to be overcome if fully-autonomous cars are to be allowed on the road. Currently no system, no matter how technologically advanced, is 100 percent foolproof and responsive in every permutation of driving situation and it will take years to develop and test such a system.

The second biggest barrier is legislative. Laws would need to be significantly altered to legalize autonomous car use and issues such as liability would have to be addressed. Is the carmaker or the driver responsible when an autonomous car has an accident?

All of which is why Renault is looking to develop ‘delegated driving’ systems, which keep the driver in overall control but, step by step, will become more responsible for piloting the car. As such, there is a good chance that the technologies on this concept will be making it to market in 2020, Renault’s ultimate goal. “Next Two is a realistic prototype which incorporates technologies that are sufficiently well-developed to be built into production models in the medium-term future,” notes Mathis.