A last-mile delivery concept using self-driving, electric pods called Ez-Pro has been unveiled by Renault at the Hannover Motor Show in Germany.
The French manufacturer says that last-mile delivery services are one of the biggest opportunities for disruption, driven by a desire from consumers for quicker delivery times, the need of retailers to manage delivery costs and cities to look for new ways of managing congestion and cutting pollution.
A manufacturer of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) for almost 120 years, and a market leader in electric light commercial vehicles (LCVs), Renault believes it is in a leadership position to accelerate change in the way goods are moved.
Ashwani Gupta, alliance senior vice president of LCV, said Ez-Pro would “unlock countless opportunities” for companies such as last-mile delivery giants DPD.
Renault explains that with Ez-Pro, the lead pod hosts a human concierge who supervises the delivery of goods and services, and its fleet of robo-pods.
Not having to worrying about driving the pods, the concierge can instead focus on value-added tasks, says Renault. They can supervise route planning and the robo-pods or carry out deliveries.
The fleet of driverless electric robo-pods either follow each other by platooning or can move independently.
Ez-Pro also features customisable modules that meet a wide variety of specific business customer needs for specialists in delivery and last-mile logistics, and for retailers, craftsmen and entrepreneurs, says Renault.
"With Ez-Pro, we continue our exploratory work around urban shared mobility of the future,” said Laurens van den Acker, senior vice president at Groupe Renault Corporate Design.
“Focused on delivery solutions, this autonomous, connected and electric concept represents the ideal tool, being both a creator of opportunity for professionals and a facilitator of services for all its users, direct or indirect.
“It is based on Renault's expertise in commercial vehicles and on the brand's DNA, which places people at the heart of its solutions."
Ez-Pro is a shared solution. A convoy of pods leaving from the same hub and managed by the same logistics operator can carry different types of goods and merchandise, each pod having its own paymaster, theme, clientele and delivery place.
They are however operated by the same electric and autonomous platform. In the same manner, a pod can make a series of deliveries for one online store and another series for a different store. These shared scenarios contribute to maximize productivity and save costs, says Renault.
The end-user, the customer will also be able to choose between receiving his parcel by the concierge or accessing self-service lockers in the driverless robo-pods. These lockers, accessible 24/7, can be opened by the recipient via a mobile phone application and are similar to the sort of system deployed by Amazon in public places, like supermarkets.
The shipping solution will also feature real-time tracking options via mobile with alert services for an even smoother delivery experience, says Renault.
Last-mile deliveries make up to 30% of traffic in cities - a burden which Renault believes Ez-Pro can help relieve thanks to its shared shipping delivery solution, flexibility and autonomous driving. They will contribute to fewer vehicles on the road during rush hour, and fewer traffic jams caused by poor driving habits or badly parked delivery vehicles, it says.
Smooth traffic flow will be further enhanced by connecting the robo-pods to city infrastructures like traffic lights and traffic control center, said Renault.