Home » Renault Announces Plans For An Automated Level 4 Mini Bus And Thinks Level 3 Is Worthless

Renault Announces Plans For An Automated Level 4 Mini Bus And Thinks Level 3 Is Worthless

Renaultav Plan
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Today the Renault Group issued a press release outlining their autonomous vehicle strategy, and based on my initial reading of it, seems to be one of the more realistic and achievable plans I’ve seen from a major automaker. Though, now that I think about it, I haven’t really seen many coherent AV plans from major automakers, unless we want to take seriously Tesla’s perpetual claim that full-autonomous robotaxis will be here later this year, forever. And I don’t want to take that seriously. So let’s take a look at what Renault is talking about doing, and why I think it seems a reasonably sound plan.

The first line they use to describe their plan is refreshingly humble in this space of bold claims of advanced tech that’s going to fundamentally change how humanity moves through the physical world. Renault is keeping expectations much more reasonable:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

“Renault Group has a pragmatic vision of technology, based on the principle that innovation only makes sense if it is shared, economically accessible and genuinely useful to as many people as possible.”

Okay! Pragmatism! That’s a novel concept for the AV space! Nobody’s telling me my car is going to go out and hustle and rake in $30,000 a year doing robotaxi work and maybe picking up shifts at the Waffle House when it can.

I think the most significant thing Renault Group (it feels like I should have a “the” in front of that, but I just looked at the PR, and they don’t, so there you go) is doing is dividing their AV strategies into two groups: private cars and public transportation. Here’s how they see that breakdown happening:

For the individual vehicles, Renault Group already offers top-level driving assistance on most of its models, providing comfort and safety. Further automation of some functions, with the aim of achieving complete vehicle autonomy, seems unlikely for the time being, given current regulations, customer expectations and the cost of the complex technology involved.

When it comes to public transportation, Renault Group intends to be a real player in sustainable and autonomous mobility. To this end, the Group is developing an electric, robotised, and pre-equipped miniBus platform that will host various automation solutions from specialist partners.

Let’s start with what Renault is planning for private vehicles: fundamentally, it’s just more supervised driver-assistance systems, all within the limits of Level 2, which requires constant driver oversight and a readiness to take over driving control with minimal or even no warning. This is essentially what production cars offer today, and while I have my issues with Level 2 systems, they’re already out there in the world.

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Do you need a refresher on the Levels, again? They are a bit confusing. Here’s the SAE’s chart:

Now, Level 3 systems are a different story; while some companies have already claimed to be producing Level 3 vehicles, the truth is that Level 3 is not well-defined for anybody. Level 3 says there can be times when the driver is not driving, the car is fully in charge, and the driver does not even need to be supervising. Until they do, in which case, they must take over. But so far, no automaker has been able to adequately explain to me what that handoff could look like. Can you realistically expect an instant handoff to a driver that has no driving responsibility, and may be asleep or throwing a pot or who the hell knows what else? I don’t think you can.

Here’s what Renault Group says about Level 3:

There is a significant technological complexity gap between level L2 automation and level L3 autonomy, because the vehicle must be able to operate safely in complex environments with limited driver supervision. At this stage, the induced cost to be borne by customers, in relation to the driving benefits, would make demand insufficient or even anecdotal.

Renault doesn’t think it’s worth bothering with, it seems. And I agree, though not necessarily for the reasons they state. Renault seems to be suggesting there’s a “significant technological complexity gap” which I’m sure there is, but that’s not where the real problem is. The problem is that conceptually Level 3 just doesn’t work. Really, though, it doesn’t matter, because Renault doesn’t think they can sell cars with that crap in them, anyway.

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Now, when it comes to public transportation, Renault is a bit more ambitious, with sights on having Level 4 – as in no driver needed, within a specific and pre-defined region – automated vehicles. I think this has some potential because of the unique circumstances in the European cities they seem to be targeting:

The autonomous miniBus, a relevant and necessary solution for public transport
In Europe, more than 400 major cities will gradually become low emission zones, while still having to ensure the mobility of their populations.

Convinced of the benefits of autonomous public transportation, Renault Group has been conducting trials for several years to define the best response to the needs of local authorities, such as the “Mach 2 project” announced in 2023, which from 2026 will see a fleet of automated electric minibuses integrated into the public transportation network of Chateauroux Metropole (France).

Ultimately, these trials will lead Renault Group to offer a robotised electric miniBus platform based on the New Renault Master, able to integrate automation solutions from specialist partners such as EasyMile, Milla and WeRide.

I’m going to hold off on commenting on their partnerships with EasyMile, Milla, WeRide, WeMile, EasyRide, Nilla, WeGo, or any other company with a name that sounds like that, because, frankly, I don’t know enough about them to give any real insight. But, what I can comment on is the fundamental plan: Renault realizes that lots of European urban areas will be taking steps to limit the amount of traffic in their city centers, often potentially limiting private cars significantly, so other solutions to moving people will be needed.

Renault Master 1

The relatively small and well-mapped areas that would be affected are ideal for a Level 4 system; this is the sort of well-constrained goal that could potentially work well for an automated minibus-like vehicle. It’s a lofty goal, but not a moonshot. This is a low-Earth-orbit-communications-satellite-type of shot.

As far as AV press release announcements go, this may be the most restrained, rational one I’ve read. Sure, it’s a lot less exciting, but I’m tired of the exciting AV horseshit. If this is the way forward, maybe we can actually make some reasonable progress.

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Strangek
Strangek
12 days ago

Reasonable ideas that could actually be put into practice are quite refreshing. Nice work Renault!

Greensoul
Greensoul
13 days ago

ooops, HOLD THE BUS MARTY! Renault has plans? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Greensoul
Greensoul
13 days ago

My 82 LeCar was the ultimate automated earth friendly vehicle ever! It used no gas at all at during college. We pushed it everywhere on campus with cheerleaders sticking out of the big folded back cloth sunroof! If we needed to move it, 2-3 college jocks would just pick it up and move it. EZ PZ. The deadliest of emissions that ever came from that was the gas blowing out of the jocks butts after a feast at the $1.99 ci ci pizza buffet;. Talk about toxic emission’s? That was it. I blame a bunch of jock dudes butt holes from NSU in the 80s for global warming. Am I the only one here that remembers CiCi’s buffet for $1.99? When it went to 3 bucks I just knew the world had come to it’s end

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
13 days ago

What does an automated urban minibus do that a human driver can’t do?

To my knowledge, urban buses don’t suffer from chronic crashes caused solely by driver inattention or sleepiness. And conversely, the bus driver performs a lot of useful functions: help disabled riders get strapped in; answer rider questions; reinstall those articulated power wire things when they get disconnected from the power lines; toss unruly riders off the bus; call the cops when needed; perform minor diagnostic and maintenance, like removing obstructions or checking tires; and more. Why would you want to replace the driver?

I think the answer is obvious, but maybe I’m just a cynical dillhole and there are other reasons.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
13 days ago

“maybe I’m just a cynical dillhole and there are other reasons.”

Lessee, here’s a few off the top of my head:

Human drivers are icky Petri dishes of contagens. So is the vehicle. An AV can be sterilized between fares.

Robots don’t expect a $$ tip!

Robots don’t desperately need showers. Or deodorant. They don’t have pastrami, onion and garlic sandwiches for lunch either.

Robots can’t be mugged, killed or held hostage.

Robots don’t need SS, healthcare or a pension. So they’re cheaper and those savings get passed on to you, the fare, right?

RIGHT!??

Robots don’t need to eat, sleep or have bathroom breaks.

Robots don’t make annoying small talk. They leave you the f#ck alone. Unless it’s a Johnny cab and nobody likes those.

You can puke all over a robot and it won’t care. It’ll just meekly hose itself off at the nearest powerwash station.

Robots don’t drive like dillholes. Or at least less like dillholes.

Greensoul
Greensoul
13 days ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Ha Ha, Cheap Bastard said dill hole…..ha ha. Thank Gawd he didn’t use that cuss word bung hole. I love how your cleaning things up you ole Cheap Bastard!. The robots are a good influence for you!!! PS and BTW, your one of my favorite commenters on here so please do take my comment in the fun spirit it was made in

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
13 days ago
Reply to  Greensoul

No worries and thanks.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
12 days ago

This is from Renault. Based in France. French workers are known for striking, just because. Robots don’t strike.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
13 days ago

Proper, release and review.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
13 days ago

Quirky French design of AVs? Of the images that brings would result in a ban hammer.

Overall I have no issues with L4+ in controlled environments. Not read for a cross coast trip yet Airport Shuttle.. muti building factory, or some downtowns I can see it working. Just need to have human factor pay attention, the common failure point.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
13 days ago

I think cities that are seeking relief from congestion and pollution need to take a more proactive approach to the problem with Level 4 automation. Don’t charge fees to allow polluters in and don’t further clog the roads with automated “buses” or whatever. Instead, develop fully automated – I’ll call them lowboys – platforms that are located in strategic points outside the city that travelers must rent. You drive your own vehicle onto the lowboy, shut it down, then interface with the lowboy via phone or navigation system and the lowboy conveys you and your car around the city using a fully controlled grid that communicates with all lowboys to deconflict traffic and maximize flow. You don’t need massive parking lots as with other public transit because your car stays with you and the lowboys would be compact enough that they could be housed in vertical stacks that would take up far less room. Somebody has probably already proposed this, but I’m going to claim it. Look out Elon, here I come.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
13 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

You are going to fire a while division?:)

May be something like a road going auto train. Drive car on, stay in or ride in a lounge, get off at stopping point.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
13 days ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

I’m gonna fire everybody because I’m just that smart.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
13 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Did you just invent park and ride

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
13 days ago

Either that or car surfing.

AssMatt
AssMatt
13 days ago

(it feels like I should have a “the” in front of that, but I just looked at the PR, and they don’t, so there you go)

Sic burn!

Last edited 13 days ago by AssMatt
Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
13 days ago
Reply to  AssMatt

Deadly

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