While pipe-dream autonomous ride-sharing vehicles have become a staple of European auto shows, the Renault EZ-GO is one of the few that manages to meld futuristic design and high-brow utopian aspirations without coming across as little more than a discarded prop from low-budget space flick. Designed for public or private service, the Level 4 autonomous (with SAE International Level 5 capability) EZ-GO EV has room to accommodate up to six passengers at a time.
The way Renault spins it, the EZ-GO is both a vehicle and a service and thus designed to integrate with the key infrastructure elements that the company expects will be offered by the smart cities of the future. This means leveraging sensors, data analytics, connected services, multimodal systems, and more to provide a reliable, efficient transportation option. Riders could hail the EZ-GO by means of a smartphone app or using a screen at one of many fixed stations located throughout a city. A choice of several vehicles would be offered upon hailing, allowing tourists the opportunity to select a vehicle suited for sightseeing while those in a hurry can pick the one that will deliver them most directly to their destinations.
Renault goes all in and refers to the EZ-GO as a “robo-vehicle” designed with small groups in mind, in a role that would be complementary to current transportation options such as passenger cars, buses, and rail. Because of its size, it’s ideal for private or public ownership and should mix relatively easily with traffic. The difference is that the EZ-GO combines the flexibility and comfort of personal transportation with the anticipated efficiency, safety, and worry-free driving scenarios provided by public transport.
While the glass-cocoon exterior and clean design are futuristic, the EZ-GO somehow looks a few steps closer to reality than most of the recent concept cars of this ilk. The EZ-GO’s shape and large glass area is not only aesthetically pleasing but was designed to both maximize the field of vision of the autonomous system’s sensors and also allow natural light through the panoramic glass roof. Renault says the EZ-GO provides an, “unprecedented 360 degree ‘open window’ on the city and a convivial space for people to relax and enjoy the ride.” (Let’s not forget the psychological and safety benefits of being able to view the occupants of public transportation vehicles before boarding.) The low roof is designed to be below the eye level of pedestrians, and, once connected at a station, the boarding ramp provides a wide, flat surface for ease of entrance on foot or on wheels.
Approximate measurements peg the EZ-GO at 204.7 inches long, 86.6 inches wide, and 63.0 inches tall with the hatch closed. At 149.6 inches, its wheelbase is longer than a Rolls-Royce Phantom’s, and Renault says it weighs 3747 pounds, including 661 pounds of battery. As a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, the EZ-GO is equipped for negotiating urban landscapes, including maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front, staying in its lane, changing lanes, and turning. Top speed is limited to 30 mph, and Renault’s four-wheel steering technology, dubbed 4Control, is in place to ensure agile response.
The electric motor is located near the rear axle to drive the rear wheels; the battery resides under the floor. Active suspension lowers the vehicle for boarding and can raise it for road irregularities. No additional specifics regarding motor output or battery type and capacity were available at press time. (This French car’s name may remind Americans of Textron’s golf-cart-making subsidiary, but that company is named E-Z-GO. No matter how many hyphens you use, it only makes sense in English.)
Sensors to facilitate autonomous operation—lidar, radar, ultrasound, and cameras—are housed in a removable antenna mounted to the rear spoiler, which automatically deploys when the vehicle starts. With the EZ-GO envisioned as a city-only vehicle, the sensors have been fine-tuned for the urban environment. A large screen at the front of the interior provides trip information such as ETA and passengers’ next stop. Inductive charging is available for personal devices.
As concepts go, the EZ-GO is more fleshed out than most. And while a success on that front, Renault says it’s just one piece of a mobility puzzle that includes a mix of car-sharing, carpooling, ride-hailing, and robo-vehicle services. That’s a refreshing change from the usual “this solves everything” pitch we’ve learned to expect. It seems the future is becoming something more realistic than a weird design concept best viewed from 10 feet away.