Vehicle emissions regulations are meant to promote clean air and reduce carbon dioxide in order to combat climate change.
In Europe, aggressive new rules are also a direct response to a massive diesel-emissions scandal, accelerating the shift to electric vehicles, said Renault CEO Thierry Bolloré.
The tightening of emissions limits has created huge tension in the automotive industry, Bolloré said in Paris at Viva Technology, a flagship European tech conference this week. In 2017, the European Commission proposed reducing CO2 emissions for new cars and vans by 30% in 2030, compared with levels in 2021. The aggressive rules are seen, in part, as an attempt to regain credibility after regulators failed to prevent Volkswagen and other automakers from cheating existing standards.
Bolloré said he was surprised by the backlash on emissions rules following the “dieselgate” scandal: Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that software was used to cheat on pollution tests for as many as 11 million of its diesel vehicles. Later, a host of other automakers, including Renault, were reported to have made diesel vehicles that produced more pollution than tests seemed to indicate.
“It’s not fully rational,” Bolloré said of the regulatory response, which is reshaping the industry. He added that it’s giving a boost to electric vehicle development, and that the French car giant he runs is already making a “modest” amount of money from its electric-vehicle business. (Bolloré also credited Tesla’s efforts to build mass-market electric cars as a kind of revolution for the industry, but noted that the company is having a hard time making money.)
Renault and several partners have started “The Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab” project which aims to make self-driving transportation a reality in France.
The project aims to develop new mobility services using dedicated lane and public and campus streets to supplement the existing Saclay Plateau transportation systems.
Made possible by Renault’s collaboration with the Transdev Group, IRT SystemX, Institut VEDECOM and the University of Paris-Saclay, the trial program uses three Renault Zoe Cab self-driving prototypes and a Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal autonomous shuttle.
The latter will provide collective transportation service for up to 16 passengers at a time during the night when the regular transportation systems are not functioning. As for the three Zoe Cab vehicles, they will be used for a daytime on-demand car service for the Paris-Saclay urban campus.
People can hail a car or book one ahead of time using a dedicated Marcel smartphone app. A prototype autonomous electric Renault Zoe Cab vehicle will then come to pick up the user and then drop them off at the destination. The service is designed to provide a large number of pick-up and drop-off points, which do not interfere with other traffic and are located near the most frequented campus areas.
The all-electric Renault Zoe Cab and Transdev-Lohr i-Cristal shuttle autonomous vehicles are equipped with GPS-type sensors, Lidar, cameras, inertial units, and self-driving software. The technology enables them to detect other vehicles and pedestrians, safely pass through intersections and roundabouts, detect deceleration and recognize traffic lights. In the specified areas they operate they provide full autonomy, although a “safety operator” is present at all times inside the vehicle.
Renault does not provide additional details about the Zoe Cab autonomous prototype but it’s easy to spot the changes compared to the regular production model. Those include the massive Lambo-style door on the right-hand side which eases access to the cabin thanks to the elimination of the B-pillar. The interior features three passenger seats, two facing forward and one facing rearward, as well as a “driver’s seat” that is isolated from the passenger compartment, presumably for safety reasons.