Mike Stevens | Feb 7, 2014


Renault has offered a first look at its new self-driving prototype, the Next Two.

On the outside, it’s the familiar Zoe hatch, but inside and underneath the Next Two is a host of autonomous technologies that Renault hopes to have on the market by 2020.

The Next Two, for now at least, is designed to work in tandem with its human driver, taking care of tedious city driving and parking duties, but leaving faster highway work to us.

The Next Two gets about with the help of sensors in its bumpers, a camera system mounted in front of the interior mirror, and an ultrasound field surrounding the vehicle.

There’s also a ‘smart seat’ system that includes a head-up display, alerting the driver to potential issues and moving the seat forward to action.

For parking, the Next Two can also cooperate with suitably configured parking stations to offer a valet mode, allowing the driver to hop out at the entrance and leave the car to park - and return - on its own.

Renault says the concept can currently drive autonomously at speeds up to 30km/h, although it has a number of special conditions.

Firstly, the Next Two must be driving on a “protected” route; that is, a route where no pedestrians or cyclists are expected to appear in the road. (In city driving? Good luck… - Ed.)

Secondly, the Next Two’s pre-configured route must avoid the need for lane changes.

That all sounds rather limiting, but as an early prototype and with a deadline that is still six years away - a lifetime in technology - it’s not at all a bad start.

“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,” Renault chief Carlos Ghosn said.

Time spent in the Next Two should also prove more productive - if you’re the busy sort - thanks to the system’s ability to work with all mobile connectivity platforms, allowing for occupants to get some work done while the car takes care of the driving.

“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," Ghosn said.

The Next Two’s debut this week follows the unveiling last year of the AUMP concept, pegged as a self-parking car.

It too has a limited range of abilities, focusing on the ability to park itself and be remotely recalled to a designated meeting point by the driver.


Beyond 2020

According to technology firm IHS Automotive, cars without any form of driver controls like pedals or a steering wheel are expected to become a reality by 2030, with sales of such models to reach 11.8 million globally by 2035.

MORE: All Autonomous Vehicle Articles

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