Philippe Diviné

Philippe Diviné, LCV Strategy Director, Renault, discusses the automaker’s latest mobility concept, the EZ-PRO

Philippe Diviné

Philippe Diviné, LCV Strategy Director, Renault, discusses the automaker’s latest mobility concept, the EZ-PRO

So Philippe, what was Renault's thinking behind the EZ-PRO?

We believe that urban last mile delivery sector is one of the most important areas subject to disruption for a future that is clean, free of congestion, and efficient. That is why we have imagined a solution that is electric, connected, autonomous and shared. 

Commercial delivery should be flexible and so we have designed a platform that can be used in B2B, B2C scenarios. Moreover, it should address all the varieties of urban delivery requirements, such as parcels, fresh food, frozen products, laundry and many more, that is why EZ-PRO consists of modular, tailor-made and fully-connected robo-pods. 

The delivery of parcels should be seamless. EZ-PRO supplies convenient shipping of goods and services and a personalised delivery experience for logistic service operators, delivery companies, retailers and the end users. It also enables a shared shipping solution, intended to maximise the productivity of the transport pods operated by transporters with a potential for decreased costs and more fluid traffic. End users can choose precisely where, when and how to be delivered.

The delivery of parcels should be seamless. EZ-PRO supplies convenient shipping of goods and services and a personalised delivery experience for logistic service operators, delivery companies, retailers and the end users. It also enables a shared shipping solution, intended to maximise the productivity of the transport pods operated by transporters with a potential for decreased costs and more fluid traffic. End users can choose precisely where, when and how to be delivered. 

We believe the future of last-mile delivery should still have a human touch. That is why our autonomous leader pod hosts a “concierge” for special deliveries or e-grocery delivery. Thanks to AD technology, when the concierge is not delivering he/she can focus on added value tasks like supervising the driverless fleet robo-pods or optimising the fleet delivery route. The concierge can benefit from a real mobile office while ensuring the high added value activity.

Being one of the major automakers in Europe, how does a concept like this represent a new outlook for Renault?

Groupe Renault has an experience of nearly 120 years in LCVs, meeting the needs of all professionals, including those in the delivery domain. We have always been a leader in innovation, through our products, design, developed technologies and the services offered, for private individuals or professionals. Its innovative vision of the future of transport and its new connected services is part of Drive the Future strategic plan.

The boom of e-commerce, the impact of restrictions on traffic in cities, and new customer expectations are the new trends, all data and factors that show how big the forthcoming disruptions for the delivery of goods and services could be. Therefore, Groupe Renault is concerned by finding solutions for future last-mile deliveries as offered by EZ-PRO.

Do you believe that autonomous ride sharing is a much better alternative than privatised ownership in terms of urban mobility?

EZ-PRO embodies our vision of the vehicle for the last-mile delivery by 2030, on which we are highly concerned. We are getting ready for a world where autonomous vehicles deliver close to 80% of parcels. The main new trends in the large and strategic last-mile delivery market ($86 billion per year) are the following:

  • The boom of e-commerce: annual growth of e-commerce in the main markets is 15% per year.
  • Impact of restrictions on traffic in cities.
  • New customer expectations: a growing group of consumers desires faster home delivery, yet most remain highly price sensitive. Thus, generating a pressure on prices, competitiveness.
  • Last-mile costs: share of the last-mile in the delivery cost for a package is 35% to 50%.

In LCV business, especially for delivery services, fleets are already the norm with very limited individual property. However, the sharing of a vehicle is mostly limited within specialised fleets, delivering a specific service such as parcel delivery, fresh food, laundry or frozen product delivery and many more. There is obviously limited option to cross among activities. Given the cost of optimised vehicles for each activity, the use rate is obviously key to ensure a proper competitivity. Therefore, the big logistic company will try to optimise the usage rate of those vehicles, be it in terms of uptime, daily usage or filling rate.

Would you agree that, although we are still some way off of this vision, governments and other authorities are stalling progression in the autonomous sector?

EZ-PRO naturally finds its place in the ecosystem of smart cities that are being built by public authorities, municipalities and the private sector. The reorganisation of a city and the creation of neighbouring delivery hubs are the angles for this disruption.

As public authorities recognise the potential value for society and the economic gains connected with autonomous driving, the regulatory environment that would enable technology to be developed seems likely to evolve over the next decade. Groupe Renault and all the automotive players as well as tech giants will push for regulatory change. And public acceptance has already started to shift. We are still ahead of a 100% safe and reliable technology for public roads in whatever conditions. It is therefore important to work on those subjects in a coordinated manner.

The EZ-PRO is a holistic solution, focusing on not just the movement of people, but also deliverers and even mobile grocery stores. The vehicle is mainly dedicated to transporting goods, particularly for “last mile” deliveries. It offers solutions that efficiently and appropriately meet their needs of professionals and their customers. Solutions that begin with a vehicle that is designed to overcome their constraints and those of the areas in which they operate, and that respect the environment. These solutions will make it possible to carry out deliveries anywhere in the centres of the future metropolises and will be accompanied by fleet management and supervision services. It has been designed to accommodate the variety of needs required in a city. 

Unsurprisingly, it would be extremely difficult to build all of these vehicles to each specific need, so how would you achieve this in theory?

Today, EV delivery trucks with a human inside have mainly one use. As based on a modular platform, EZ-PRO is open to a great range of uses, meeting a wide variety of specific commercial requirements. The modules can be changed easily, optimising the usage rate of the platform that is bearing the costly autonomous technology and electric drivetrain.

It is in fact made up of two different components called pods: The leader pod hosts a concierge who supervises the delivery of the goods and services. The driverless robo-pods with a modular and entirely customisable configuration drive behind it in “platooning” mode or independently up to their delivery point.

The logistics industry has already identified platooning as a viable solution for the movement of goods on motorways and long stretches of open road. However, this concept would operate within dense cities - how would you approach this complex task in the real world?

The vehicle will always know its environment thanks to its sensors and mapping software. The autonomous driving technologies we are currently testing are absolutely safe for people on board and those around the car. With its superior detection and calculation capabilities, self-driving vehicles offer a level of safety that overshadows human capabilities. We are and will continue to test these technologies.

We believe that driverless autonomous mobility will help to significantly reduce accidents in the city and beyond. Platooning vehicles is also meant to limit the road occupation of those “trains” and therefore create a positive impact on congestion.

What may be the biggest problem down the line for autonomous vehicles if companies fail to provide a reliable service, is how they can ensure their products are operating efficiently in a chaotic urban environment. How are you looking at addressing this issue that could, ultimately, cripple future mobility services?

The solution is to validate autonomous driving in real life conditions, testing across millions of kilometres as well as in all possible situations; we are already testing this. 

For instance, Groupe Renault is experimenting in the field of autonomous mobility as part of the Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab, the first shared and autonomous on-demand mobility service on open roads in Europe, serving the first and last mile.

The EZ-PRO is a very interesting concept that strays away from many other designs we have seen in the past. Will we see anything similar to this in upcoming years and what should we expect from Renault down the line?

EZ-PRO is a concept car, and so it does not completely reflect what a future vehicle may look like. But it embodies our vision of a vehicle for the last-mile delivery by 2030, on which we are highly concerned and working on. It embarks the technological progresses that are expected in the future and allows us to fine-tune the global outlook as we adjust it to our new users’ operations. 

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