Renault says the electric-powered Next Two, which may be ready for the world as soon as 2020, will help city commuters by being programmed to self-drive in traffic to speeds up to 18 miles per hour. Other perks include self-parking (for the parallel-parking impaired) and connectivity via a high-speed broadband network. The car improves safety and work efficiency while, yes, helping folks with that time-honored tradition of being able to shop online. An additional perk is what Renault calls multi-sensorial ambiences, which uses programmed lighting, sounds and scents to help car occupants relax.
Renault's sister company Nissan has already jumped into the autonomous-driving realm. The Japanese automaker ran its first test of its self-driving electric Leaf on Japanese public roads last November. The car can merge, change lanes and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, all without the help of a driver. Check out Renault's quite lengthy press release below.
Loss of time, tiredness, stress, wasted fuel...such is the lot of the modern-day motorist, on roads that are becoming increasingly congested. In these conditions, why not allow yourself to just settle back and become a mere passenger? Autonomous vehicles are a real step towards mobility of the future, as well as towards enhanced safety. NEXT TWO is Renault's vision of an autonomous electric vehicle for the year 2020. Renault links connectivity with the delegation of certain driving functions, giving motorists useful extra free time, while improving safety.
"Thanks to the NEXT TWO autonomous prototype, Renault's aim is to take up position right now in this field of advanced technology, which we believe will reach the marketplace by around 2020. With NEXT TWO, we wanted to combine the worlds of delegated driving and connectivity. Not only will autonomous driving enhance safety, but it will also free up time for drivers. Being connected will enable them to make the most of this extra time by providing them with access to new in-car services such as video-conferences, on-line shopping, travel information and more." Carlos Ghosn, CEO Renault.
Thanks to simple but ingenious sensor technologies, NEXT TWO frees the driver from the task of driving to give him spare-time back in precise and useful situations with:
• The delegation of driving functions in congested traffic up to 18 mph on main roads.
• An Automated Valet Parking function which permits the vehicle to park itself completely autonomously in car parks equipped to cater for automated vehicles. This includes both finding a parking place and the necessary manoeuvring.
On board NEXT TWO, people can above all ensure that this time is either productive or pleasurable by tapping into the benefits of a hyperconnected mobile lifestyle. With its based on open source connectivity system, NEXT TWO picks up all available networks (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, etc.) and is compatible with all operating systems. People on-board will find everything they would expect to find at home or in the office – in complete safety, while the vehicle takes care of the journey by itself.
The background behind Autonomous Driving
At the launch of its New Face of Industry in France programme, the French government named Carlos Ghosn as the leader of the 'Autonomous Vehicles' project. A roadmap will be agreed in February 2014 and Renault will mobilise the resources of the French automotive industry for this programme.
In the context of the Alliance, Renault and Nissan are working together to ensure synergies in the development of autonomous and connected vehicles. To help bring these technologies into the mainstream, a high number of partners are involved.
NEXT TWO: RENAULT'S VISION OF MOBILITY IN THE FUTURE
Enjoy extra free time safely by linking connectivity to delegated driving functions
NEXT TWO allows motorists to enjoy additional free time. The link between connectivity and the delegation of driving functions will allow the driver and occupants to explore a new form of mobility. Whether it's working in the car or just letting go, or allowing your car to park all by itself, countless new applications will be possible in years to come.
Congestion on our roads produces societal problems in three ways:
• The loss of between 60 and 80 hours per year in major cities in Europe and the United States based upon daily return commutes of just 60 minutes (source: TomTom and INRIX)
• Drivers suffering from tiredness and stress in these situations, which in-turn impacts upon their health
• A waste of energy calculated at more than 16 billion litres of fuel in the US and Europe (source: Gartner).
"Everybody is looking to save time, particularly when it comes to driving. NEXT TWO has consequently been designed to help occupants optimise the way they manage their time and ensure that wasted or lost time becomes useful or enjoyable by freeing up opportunities to relax, educate oneself, have fun or work," explains Frédéric Mathis, the man in charge of the NEXT TWO project.
For Renault, autonomous driving is the most effective way to address these challenges. The major innovation that provides NEXT TWO's occupants with extra free time is of course the delegation of driving functions: in certain specific zones, NEXT TWO itself takes over control of the vehicle. The driver no longer needs to concentrate on the car in front, nor to keep an eye on the vehicle behind. NEXT TWO takes care of all of this while the driver devotes his or her attention to other things.
The second key technology in the NEXT TWO prototype is its connectivity. The system's ability to connect with Cloud services anywhere and at any time enables the driver to make the best possible use of the additional time gained during delegated driving. This is a specific feature of the Renault approach to autonomous vehicles.
1. A TRIP INTO THE FUTURE: HOW TOMORROW'S SYSTEMS COULD WORK
Let's fast-forward into a world of mobility in the future on board NEXT TWO. These two examples will provide a foretaste.
Getting to the meeting on time
It's mid-afternoon and sales representative Juliette receives a text message on her smartphone. It is her electronic mobility assistant with an alert for her: if she wants to be on time for her off-site meeting, she should leave at 4pm. The message states that the journey will take 43 minutes and that the route will include a 20-minute congested trunk road section where delegated driving will be permitted.
Juliette launches the Automated Valet Parking app on her smartphone, commanding her NEXT TWO to pick her up outside the building at 4pm, completely autonomously. If Juliette had wanted to, and thanks to a camera located next to the rear-view mirror, she could have switched her smartphone display to 'car view' for a real-time view of what the car itself is seeing as it returns to her. At 4pm on the dot, Juliette gets to the pick-up point where NEXT TWO has been waiting for her for a few minutes already.
As Juliette walks up to the vehicle, NEXT TWO identifies her as the driver, unlocks the doors and adjusts the driving position to welcome her with her preferred settings: the reach and rake of the seat, mirror alignment, favourite radio station. Juliette gets in, switches on and follows the instructions on NEXT TWO's navigation screen and head-up display.
A short while later, as the vehicle enters a delegated driving zone, NEXT TWO asks Juliette if she would like to hand over control. She accepts, confirming it with the 'autonomous drive' command. The head-up display changes to blue to show that the vehicle is now in autonomous mode, and the seat moves to its comfort settings. Juliette is able to finalise preparations for her meeting, on the move and in complete safety. She calls up her working documentation in an instant, along with the multimedia content stored on the Cloud. She takes the opportunity of putting in a quick video-conference call to one of her Japanese colleagues to fine-tune the last few elements in her sales pitch.
A few minutes later the navigation system flags up moving roadworks along her intended route, lengthening the journey 45 minutes beyond the time originally predicted. Juliette is in danger of being late for her meeting. Here, Juliette has a choice: either she continues her journey as originally planned and warns her customer using the video-conference function, or else she switches to an alternative means of transport in order to arrive on time. Juliette chooses the second option and launches the dedicated multimodal mobility app.
This offers three different alternatives on the touchscreen. Juliette selects the one which recommends parking in a nearby car park and continuing the journey on the underground system. With the voice command 'buy', she reserves a space in the car park and downloads an e-ticket for the underground to her smartphone.
NEXT TWO now begins to guide her to the car park, leaving the delegated driving zone. Juliette comes out of the comfort position and resumes control of the vehicle. When she gets to the car park she activates the Automated Valet Parking function. The car will park all by itself in the space which the car park administrator had allocated to it as soon as Juliette's request came in a few minutes earlier. While this is happening, she is heading for the station on foot. She will be on time for her meeting!
At the end of her day, Juliette is heading back home after having picked up her daughter Samantha from school. She reaches another delegated driving zone and decides to leave the driving to NEXT TWO.
As they pass alongside an advertising hoarding, NEXT TWO's central display alerts Juliette to a concert by her favourite artist. Persuaded, Juliette decides to buy two tickets on the spot. She will receive these automatically on her smartphone, which is paired with the vehicle.
Further along her route, but still in the delegated driving zone, NEXT TWO signals that one of Juliette's girlfriends is in the vicinity. Juliette calls her in 'hands free' mode and sees her friend's face appear on the screen. During the conversation, the friend shares a photo with her and, with a simple move of her hand, Juliette transfers the picture to the tablet computer belonging to her daughter, sitting alongside her in the car. She hangs up and decides to take advantage of the delegated driving free time to relax and launches the 'Health & Wellbeing' app. The seat immediately begins its massage function and the lighting, sound and scent environments within the cabin tune in to this moment of relaxation.
The vehicle's route takes it close to a stately home, something which is immediately communicated to Juliette via the navigation screen, along with all the tourist information relating to this attraction. After arriving at her destination, Juliette launches the Automated Valet Parking function. NEXT TWO steers itself towards the garage as Juliette and her daughter Samantha calmly return to the house.
2. AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES AND LEGISLATION: A NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL DEBATE
How they fit into The New Face of Industry in France policy
In framing its New Face of Industry in France initiative, the French government included autonomous vehicles among its 34 plans for industry sectors. Responsibility for the plan's implementation has been given to Carlos Ghosn. The membership of the project team (key figures in the automotive world and also those in the digital sector), as well as a roadmap for the project will be finalised by the end of the first quarter of 2014. One of the first steps will be to determine which sections of the relevant legislation will have to be amended in order to allow vehicles to travel under autonomous control on public roads. International regulations, along with the national highway codes derived from these regulations, were drawn up decades ago and never anticipated the possibility of autonomous vehicles. French government officials have formed an inter-ministerial team tasked with discussing this key issue with industry. With 90 per cent of accidents attributable to human error, autonomous vehicles could prove to be a powerful tool for the promotion of road safety, too.
The international context
Globally, three broadly different approaches can be distinguished when it comes to the automation of driving. Certain countries such as Japan see automation as a means of enabling an ageing population to keep driving for as long as possible. In this way, anything that can contribute will naturally be welcomed. Other countries – the Netherlands is an example – are interested in autonomous driving for different reasons, principally those connected with regulating traffic. They believe that automation will help encourage greater fluidity in traffic flow; this could enable all the vehicles in a given lane to travel in a homogeneous group, starting and stopping at the same time in a synchronised manner. Industry specialists refer to it as platooning.
A third group of countries, finally, believe that the automation of driving functions will serve to improve road safety. Europe would make mandatory a certain number of driver assistance systems – pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and so on – that could, step by step, build up to delegated driving. The United States has been the first country to authorise trials of autonomous vehicles on the open road, albeit under certain conditions and only in certain States.
WORKING TOWARDS DELEGATED DRIVING FOR ALL
An ingenious yet affordable concept
Developing a car that is capable of driving itself completely safely in any circumstance will take time. However, NEXT TWO, which is based on a Renault ZOE, represents an initial step in this direction by allowing certain driving functions to be delegated, without risk, in clearly defined situations. NEXT TWO is equipped with a camera, a forward-facing sensor and an ultrasound field around the vehicle which together form a protective 'bubble' to guarantee the safety of its occupants.
1. AN INTELLIGENT DRIVING SYSTEM FOUNDED ON AFFORDABLE TECHNOLOGIES
Remaining loyal to its philosophy of making efficient technologies available to as many motorists as possible, Renault believed it was essential for NEXT TWO to be affordable. "NEXT TWO is a realistic prototype which incorporates technologies that are sufficiently well-developed to be built into production models in the medium-term future," notes Frédéric Mathis. "It takes advantage of affordable technologies with the aim of making their use as widespread as possible." The delegation of driving functions relies notably on ADAS hardware (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) which will be marketed from 2014.
Simple and effective, the system is based upon two main detection systems which analyse the vehicle's environment thanks to a sensor in the front bumper of the car and a camera located at the base of the rear-view mirror, plus an ultrasound field around the vehicle. All these systems are coordinated by a control unit which plays a role that can be likened to that of an orchestra conductor.
A sensor and a camera
The front-facing sensor is used to analyse the vehicle ahead, calculating how far away it is and at what speed it is moving. The camera serves to detect lateral markings on the ground, in order to be able to correctly position the vehicle in its traffic lane. On this point, Renault is working in collaboration with the Vehicle-Infrastructure-Driver Interactions Laboratory (LIVIC), a research laboratory born out of INRETS and which specialises in advanced driving assistance systems. "It helps us to define driving strategies in accordance with the varying reliability of the information received from the ground markings," explains Frédéric Mathis, the NEXT TWO Project Leader.
A supervisor to co-ordinate everything
The data received from the sensor and camera is forwarded to a supervisor which, in turn, communicates with the control units for the electric power steering, motor and decoupled brake pedal. In order to keep up with the flow of traffic, it adapts the instructions it transmits to the motor and brakes. Similarly, in order to keep the vehicle in the same lane, it sends the steering system an instruction of what angle to follow. The calculator must above all constantly ensure that there are no contradictions between the various instructions sent to the steering, motor and brakes, to avoid the car accelerating midway through a corner, for example, or braking suddenly due to an ill-timed detection. "We have also paid particular attention to the way the driver resumes control of the vehicle," adds Frédéric Mathis. This embedded intelligence makes all the difference between NEXT TWO's delegated driving functions and the separate ADAS functions (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) such as Automotive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist which already exist today.
2. IDEAS THAT WILL DELIVER REAL ADDED VALUE FOR MOTORISTS
The ability for the driver to delegate control of the car while on the move can only happen if it is totally safe. In the case of NEXT TWO, handing over control to the vehicle is only possible in two specific situations which ensure that the necessary safety measures are met.
Congested traffic on main roads
In order for NEXT TWO to switch over to the delegated driving mode, the vehicle must be on a 'protected' route with neither pedestrians nor cyclists around, with congested traffic moving at a speed of less than 18 mph and with no change of lane involved. The delegation of driving functions must last at least five minutes. If the above conditions are met, the driver will be able to push a button and concentrate on something else. The car will drive itself.
Automated Valet Parking function
Equipped with an Automated Valet Parking function – extremely useful for everyday use – NEXT TWO is capable of parking itself or going to pick up its driver outside an office or at his or her home. This function is controlled by the smartphone through a dedicated app.
"Our ongoing research work seeks to ensure the most seamless transition possible between periods of delegated driving and times when it is the driver in control. We are working to extend the delegation of driving functions in progressive stages, regardless of the level of complexity, to include fast roads and motoring in built-up areas. Obviously, increasing the scope of the zones where driving can be delegated also increases the diversity of situations that are covered, placing ever-greater importance upon the validation of our findings," Rémi Bastien, Director of Engineering and Innovation.
3. AN INTUITIVE HUMAN MACHINE INTERFACE TO REASSURE THE DRIVER
NEXT TWO is an elaborate prototype capable of permitting driving functions to be totally delegated in certain conditions. Its Human Machine Interface (HMI) is designed to simplify the lives of the driver and passengers alike and provide them with an impression of wellbeing and user-friendliness...
A real world approach to vehicle control
The delegation of driving is a breakthrough not only technologically but also psychologically since it entails leaving the driving of the vehicle to an automat. One of the chief challenges consequently consisted in creating a system which ensures that the switch to delegated driving is clearly understood and in which the driver has every confidence, in keeping with the brand's 'voitures à vivre' philosophy. "We wanted to make sure that the changeover was clear, comprehensible and predictable," underlines Frédéric Mathis, the Project leader for NEXT TWO.
The first important consideration concerned the automatic mode... When the car takes over, the head-up display (HUD) – a transparent display located at the top of the dashboard – becomes blue. The aim of this is to create a reflex in the driver's mind that associates the colour blue with the automatic mode.
"To prevent ambiguous situations, we wanted a basic binary, on-off system which immediately indicates how the car is being driven at any given moment," points out Frédéric Mathis.
When driving of the vehicle is being delegated, the head-up display and dashboard display allow a perfectly logical dialogue to take place between the driver and the car.
A Head-Middle Display (HMD) for clear information and swift driver reactions
NEXT TWO features an augmented reality system which involves superimposing additional information that is useful to the driver onto a real image, a form of augmented reality. In the case of NEXT TWO, it was decided to take advantage of this system while the vehicle is being driven conventionally to deliver a type of enriched navigation. Anyone who has already used a navigation system knows that in certain complex situations – i.e. round roundabouts, at motorway junctions, etc. – it is not always easy to find your marks and take the correct decisions.
"In the case of NEXT TWO, the arrow is superimposed onto a real-time image of the road ahead which is projected onto the HMD. This makes navigation simpler whatever the circumstances because the arrow is portrayed in the vehicle's actual position on the road. Even if the road ahead is concealed by a truck, the driver knows exactly where to head or to turn," continues Frédéric Mathis. "The system also highlights those traffic signs which influence the vehicle's speed, such as warnings of a pedestrian crossing or a dangerous bend, for example. The others are not highlighted, however, so as not to overload the driver's attention."
When driving is being delegated, the driver can take his or her eyes off the road. In this case, the HUD serves to display information which reassures the driver with regard to what the vehicle is doing. For example, if NEXT TWO is calculating its position on the road in relation to a 'target' vehicle ahead, this vehicle is highlighted. At the same time, the detectability of the road's ground markings is displayed during the 'delegated driving' mode so that, should NEXT TWO estimate that it is insufficient and ask the driver to take over, the latter knows instantly why by looking at the HMD.
A large multimedia display with multimodal interaction (touchscreen and hand movements)
The large, centrally-positioned multimedia display allows multimodal interaction and can be controlled by either touch or movements of the hand. The infrared sensor at the top the display is capable of detecting certain simple movements, such as up-down, down-up, left-right and right-left. This basic interaction suffices for the driver to be able to scroll up or down lists (e.g. contact lists) or to trigger horizontal movements on the display to view photos or radio frequencies, for example, without having to lift a shoulder from the seat back to reach the screen with a finger.
This interactive 'bubble' also allows the driver to use the zoom function or open a 'pop up', for example. Once again, just moving the hand makes it possible to transfer a photo or document from the main display to nomad devices belonging to other occupants of the vehicle.
This seat was developed in association with Faurecia and features electric controls that allow its settings to be adapted to different drivers. This smart seat uses a database stored on the Cloud to determine the ideal settings as a function of the driver's build.
4. SAFETY AND WELLBEING FOR MOTORISTS
A protective bubble around the vehicle
NEXT TWO provides an answer to the strong desire for safety expressed by customers in the surveys carried out by Renault as part of this project. The objective is to minimise bodily injuries sustained in accidents by performing the job of driving much better than people.
"Renault believes that customers have a right to safety and that no comprises whatsoever can be tolerated in this area. Recent technological breakthroughs have led to considerable improvements in the real-time awareness of a vehicle's immediate surroundings and this helps to prevent accidents. In those situations where the driving of NEXT TWO is delegated, the car is actually far more efficient and often safer than Man who can be influenced by irrational criteria, such as mood of the moment, distractions, etc.)" Rémi Bastien, Director of Engineering and Innovation.
NEXT TWO features a camera, a sensor and a surrounding ultrasound field which monitors the vehicle's surroundings in real time to create a protective bubble around it for enhanced occupant safety.
The delegation of driving functions: a move in favour of road safety
Given that human error is the cause of 90% of road accidents, the first and foremost advantage of delegating certain driving functions to the vehicle itself is that it enhances the safety of road users on both four wheels and, indirectly, two wheels.
In order to propose a simple form of automation, the brand decided to permit the delegation of driving functions in purposely limited situations, i.e. vehicle travelling slowly (less than 18 mph) on congested main roads (motorways, dual carriageways, bypasses, etc.), a frequently encountered occurrence and therefore the most costly in terms of time-loss. With a human-being behind the wheel in this sort of situation, few vehicle occupants actually suffer injury in collisions (less than 1.2% of moderate injuries) because of the low speeds involved. However, serious accidents can and do occur when a vehicle collides with a motorbike or scooter, for example.By delegating the task of driving, the risk of a collision is all but eliminated because all the vehicles in the car's immediate environment – including motorbikes and scooters – are detected.
The same surveys also highlighted another fundamental demand which stems from the aging of the population, namely health. NEXT TWO addresses this need thanks to a Health & Wellbeing application. This app controls the smart seat which features a 'relax' mode, along with a range of multi-sensorial ambiences (lighting, audio, scent) that also help occupants to wind down and enjoy their journey safely, while the vehicle looks after the driving itself.
For all types of lifestyle
In 2012, Renault made its mark in the world of connectivity on the move with the introduction of R-Link, an in-car multimedia system complete with a touch-screen tablet connected to the Cloud. Its usage is restricted on safety grounds, though, and because of the obvious requirement for drivers to concentrate on the task of driving – an incontestable priority for Renault.
However, by delegating driving functions in certain circumstances, NEXT TWO resolves this issue by freeing up the driver's attention. NEXT TWO goes a step further by providing a means to optimise this additional free time thanks to an open-access broadband connection. As a result, NEXT TWO enables drivers to take part in video-conferences, book concert tickets on-line, make appointments, organise their day, access sales or travel information, investigate multimodal journey options, or simply relax!
1. OPEN-ACCESS BROADBAND
In order to test the functions permitted by high-speed mobile internet access (virtual office, cloud gaming and even multipoint video-conferencing) in a real-life setting, 4G was installed ahead of its launch at Renault's research and testing facilities thanks to an agreement with Orange. This partnership enabled the different ways 4G could be used in vehicles of the future to be explored.
NEXT TWO picks up every available network
Fitted with a multi-standard modem (a 'mobile router' in technical speak), NEXT TWO is capable of instantaneously flicking between one network and another to guarantee optimal signal. In accordance with requirements and with the channels available at a given moment, NEXT TWO can rely upon the following connections: 2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Wave, Hotspot and Bluetooth®. "Our aim is to offer our users a competitive system of connectivity at a lower cost. Moreover, NEXT TWO automatically switches from 4G to free Wi-Fi as soon as the latter is detected," explains Frédéric Mathis.
NEXT TWO: compatible with all operating systems
Courtesy of its in-car open source multimedia platform, NEXT TWO is compatible with Android, IOS, Windows 8 and all other operating systems. Drivers and passengers can access all connected services available on the Cloud. That is one of the standout strengths of the open source system offered by Renault through this prototype.
2. HIGH-SPEED BROADBAND CONNECTIVITY AND VIDEO-CONFERENCING
NEXT TWO allows for video-conferencing to take place whilst in the car. Now commonplace at home and in the office, video-conferencing has proven considerably more difficult to implement in a car, given that it requires an extremely complex technical 'ecosystem' to ensure that connection is not lost. Users would not be happy were their video-conference to be interrupted by a change in standard. Thanks to a multi-standard modem, however, switching from one network to another is imperceptible to users. Renault has worked in conjunction with the CEA* to develop this complex, multifaceted hardware.
3. A VIRTUAL OFFICE IN THE CLOUD
Amongst the other services on offer is the virtual office, with its office applications available in a Cloud. NEXT TWO features the same electronic and IT architecture as you would find at home or in the office. You can make telephone calls, send e-mails, download a video or listen to music via streaming, and much more besides – and all of this, in perfect safety and with flawless continuity of connection. NEXT TWO accesses these new services through a simple web browser, without needing to install any specific applications as is the case today.
- CEA*: multi-network modem / router: 2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Wave, Hotspot, Bluetooth®
- Orange: 4G network infrastructure, virtual office service, video-conference (Multipoint Open Video Presence Ready)
- Visteon: in-car HMI server (INNO)
- IFSTTAR** / LIVIC***: environment-sensing software for the vehicle
- Two start-ups: OBH Digital (smartphone interface) / Xbrain soft (personal assistant in multimodal mobility)
- Faurecia: connected electric massaging seat.
* Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (France's Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission)
** Institut Français des Sciences & Techno des Transports de l'Aménagement et des Réseaux (French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Spatial Planning, Development and Networks – formed out of the 2011 merger between INRETS and the LCPC)
*** Laboratoire sur les Interactions Vehicule Infrastructure Conducteur (Driver-Infrastructure –Vehicle Interventions Laboratory – formed out of the 2011 merger of INRETS and the LCPC)