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Renault's Level 4 miniBus to demo at French tennis championship.

Renault to Demo Driverless MiniBus at Roland Garros

Automaker sees near-term commercial viability of higher-level autonomous tech for public transport but not yet for private passenger cars.

Renault says it will launch a Level 4 autonomous vehicle targeting public transport while adding that it sees private vehicles being better served by advanced driver-assistance systems.

The French automaker group will team up with automated driving mini-bus specialist WeRide in a bid to enter a new commercial market with an electric, autonomous and pre-equipped ‘miniBus’ platform that plans to host various automation solutions from specialist operators. Renault plans to demonstrate its new vehicle at the Roland-Garros 2024 tennis tournament at the end of this month.

From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., May 26 to June 9, this experimental service will take passengers from a car park located on the outskirts of the Bois-de-Boulogne to the Roland-Garros stadium. At the end of the matches it will go from Roland-Garros to the Place de la Porte d'Auteuil or back to the car park.

In spelling out its autonomous vehicle strategy, Renault, which already offers Level 2 automated driving capabilities in some premium products, does not currently see a case to advance beyond that level. In a statement, it points out that: “There is a significant technological complexity gap between level L2 automation and level L3 autonomy, because the vehicle must be able to operate safely in complex environments with limited driver supervision. At this stage, the induced cost to be borne by customers, in relation to the driving benefits, would make demand insufficient or even anecdotal.”

However, providing public transport with higher levels of automated driving functions, supported by cooperation from city authorities and regulations, can make sense. Renault sees the commercial potential of offering autonomous vehicles, with estimated annual requirements expected to reach several thousand miniBuses over the next few years.

That’s because, in Europe, more than 400 major cities are expected to move toward becoming low-emission zones while still having to ensure the mobility of residents. To this end, the automaker will deploy a fleet of automated electric mini-buses integrated into the public transportation network of Chateauroux Metropole, France, from 2026.

Gilles Le Borgne, CTO Renault Group, says: “Renault Group is moving forward to implement its autonomous vehicle strategy. As a result, thanks to our experiments and our partners, the best in their fields, we will be in a position, well before the end of this decade, to propose a highly relevant range of autonomous, low-carbon miniBuses to meet the growing needs of the regions.” 

TAGS: Vehicles
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