Renault unveils ‘industry-first’ autonomous driving safety feature

French car maker Renault has developed an "industry first" autonomous control system that can match professional test drivers on road obstacle avoidance scenarios, bringing the car makers self-driving vision closer to reality.

Renault revealed that its technology had been successfully trialed on Tuesday (7 November) at its Open Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley. The technology was tested against the performance of professional test drivers and will be incorporated into Renault’s Advance Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to improve vehicle safety.

“At Groupe Renault, we are focused on being an innovation leader in products, technology and design,” the director of the Renault Open Innovation Lab Simon Hougard said. “Our innovation efforts aim to develop advanced autonomous driving technologies that consumers can trust will create a safer, more comfortable journey.”

The Renault Open Innovation Lab was created as part of the Renault – Nissan Alliance, which actively supports and accelerates research into electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving. Members from the Lab collaborated with a former chief innovation officer for the US Department of Transport to create new systems that enhanced vehicle safety by detecting and avoiding on-road obstacles.

The system will support Renault’s aim to become one of the first carmakers to offer “mind off” technology – essentially enabling fully-autonomous driving without direct supervision – on mainstream vehicles.

It is likely that the technology will be present in Renault’s new EV strategy. Launched last month, the strategy aims to roll-out eight pure EVs and 12 hybrid models by 2022. A further 15 autonomous vehicles, one fully-autonomous model and new mobility services such as ride-hailing options and a “robo-taxi” service will also be commercialised.

Renault has been broadening its portfolio of late. As well as entering into the energy storage market, through a partnership with energy equipment suppliers Powervault and retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S), the company also launched a smart phone app that enables EV owners to map charging times to benefit from renewable energy and lower electricity consumption prices from the grid.

Trial by transit

Although sceptics remain, autonomous vehicles will soon become mainstream. EV experts such as Nissan and Tesla have both launched their own self-driving features, while Volvo’s self-driving vehicle trials in London look set to expand next year.

The UK is keen to capture the economic benefits from this rapidly growing market. Earlier this year, the Government launched the first phase of a £100m investment in the development of driverless vehicles with a new competition supporting the creation of testing infrastructure. The programme will be matched by a further £100m investment from industry over four years.

This regulatory framework has been generally supported by the public, with a quarter of UK citizens willing to sell their vehicle in favour of signing up to a driverless car subscription.

Matt Mace

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