Renault has unveiled Ez-Pod, an exploratory electric and autonomous vehicle for on-demand travel across short distances.

The French automaker maintains there are several applications for the Renault EZ-POD. Where a shuttle runs along pre-defined routes, several pods can be combined to pick up travellers and bring them to their destination.

As the pods are small and drive slowly, they are less obtrusive in a crowded urban environment.

With the Ez-Pod’s limited speed, compact design, and agility, it can provide transportation within pedestrianised environments such as airports, car parks and shopping centres, where it will be trialled in dedicated zones.

In the future, it could be authorised to drive on some pedestrian streets, or to advance – at very low speeds (less than 6kmh) – up to the entrance of buildings and houses to drop off people with limited mobility. Another possible use would be as a follower-pod for a ‘follow me’-type delivery application.

Renault Ez-Pod is a functional demonstration device which enables new uses to be explored for autonomous vehicles without a cockpit. The manufacturer says it is a work in progress, and likely to evolve in line with feedback from users, fleet operators and city authorities.

“If we can tailor the autonomous vehicles of the future to our current needs – for instance as passenger cars – it is certain these ground-breaking devices will generate new uses and applications that emerge as the experiments progress,” said Renault Robo-Vehicle programme manager, Frederic Auzas.

Built on a Twizy chassis, Renault Ez-Pod is inspired by the lines of the Ez-Go concept car and the modular platform concept of Ez-Pro.

“Choosing a fully electric Twizy platform threw up the technical challenge of creating a compact design that eliminates a driver’s cockpit and incorporates the autonomous technology,” added a Renault statement.

“The vehicle’s low speed and earliest usage scenarios made it feasible to rationalise the number of sensors. The Ez-Pod is fitted with one camera and one Lidar on the front to scan the scene ahead, plus short and long-range radars located behind the car’s front and rear trim.

“Finally, there are two antennas and a GPS in the roof, for real-time position tracking and connectivity.

“The proportions of the overall design manage to optimise a small parking footprint with spaciousness, chiefly thanks to a battery size that has been pared back to the absolute minimum for short urban journeys.”

The vehicle for people transit purposes features a large opening on the side, so people can get in and out quickly. Its plain and coloured interior is designed to be durable and easy to clean in the event of shared use. 

The Ez-Pod has the same seats as the original Twizy with coverings of structured plastics or more ecological materials, such as a processed linen floor mat. Passengers are greeted by two screens which provide information about the journey and the interior lighting system enables to play ‘welcome’ and ‘goodbye’ ambiances, as well as give status updates on the Ez-Pod (for example, waiting, booked, on a journey).

The Ez-Pod, designed primarily as a robotised automated platform to provide first and last mile transportation of people, can also be provided in a goods delivery version.