If you happen to see a Fluence Z.E. without a driver (or passenger) making its way, Knight Rider-like, along the roads of the Renault Technocentre, don’t panic, you’re not hallucinating. The car in question is the result of the Advanced Urban Mobility Platform (AUMP) program. Project manager François Chauveau explains: "Driving a car is generally a pleasure, but sometimes it’s not, like when you spend hours looking for a parking space or you have to park in an underground lot. This is exactly why restaurants have a valet service – at a price, of course! That’s where the idea comes from: why not simply an automatic driver? And in the same spirit, how about a car that picks up its driver rather than the other way round?"
The AUMP was designed with the development of a taxi pool in mind. The idea is that you reserve a car from the pool on a special website, entering your route, time and point of departure. On the day, you receive a text message telling you the car is waiting at the specified meeting point, with the necessary electric charge. You "check in" by waving your badge over a sensor in the windscreen. The car unlocks its doors and deactivates automatic mode to let you take over. The journey over, you drop the car off at the location of your choice, and it returns driverless to the taxi pool.
The advantages are obvious. Users enjoy a more comfortable experience as they don’t have to journey to the parking lot and the car arrives with the right battery charge for the trip, while Renault optimizes the operation of its taxi pool.
So what about the future? "It’s just an experiment for now, for a specific use, valet parking" says François Chauveau. "But unlike other driverless cars, Renault and its partners (1) designed the AUMP with equipment, safety and costs in line with industry standards, with most of the components already fitted in the car. One day, perhaps?" Until then, the AUMP will make its own way forward…
(1) Université Technologique de Compiègne, IFSTTAR, INRIA, ENSTA ParisTech, Viveris, AcuMine, Viametris, Tecris, Cohda Wireless, Mobileye.