Renault has unveiled the EZ-Ultimo, its all-electric, self-driving luxury limousine concept designed for short journeys. The concept completes a trio of autonomous vehicles from the French car maker showcasing its vision of the future.
The company believes the vehicle could be used by private individuals and by high-end brands to transport clients between hotels and airports, for instance. It could also be used as an app-controlled ride-hailing vehicle.
The EZ-Ultimo has a 499-km range and features level-four autonomy, which allows a car to drive itself in most scenarios. It seats up to three people and is 5.8m long, a similar length to Rolls-Royce’s Phantom.
It is the third autonomous concept unveiled by Renault this year, with the firm aiming to show the variety of ways self-driving cars might be used by society. The six-seat EZ-Go, conceived as an urban vehicle for ride sharing, was displayed at the Geneva motor show in March. It was followed last month by the EZ-Pro, a take on a delivery van. The EZ-Pro focuses on ‘last mile’ deliveries but is also adaptable to other businesses. For example, it can be used as a catering van.
The EZ-Ultimo sits at the top of the family and “imagines unique, premium services accessible to anyone”. Rather than a ride-sharing vehicle that might carry 10 passengers, the EZ-Ultimo is intended for “private travel.”
It has a sliding side door, with the glass section opening upwards, to allow easy entry and exit. The interior is designed like a lounge and is inspired by Renault’s pre-war models in celebration of its 120th anniversary.
A large armchair and a deep two-person bench are covered in velvet; there is parquet flooring, too.
Light and sound are controlled by rotating knobs that appear from two consoles when required. There is permanent Wi-Fi, wireless charging pads for smartphones and an iPad-style tablet for accessing the car’s services.
Of the three concepts, the EZ-Go and EZ-Pro are the most plausible for production. “The first stage is EZ-Go production,” said concept car boss Stéphane Janin. “I can’t say when, but it’s going to happen.”
However, he said their systems were likely to be used on “conventional-looking” cars first. “If you want to change the design [to the EZ concept cars], people need to feel safe with the technology first,” Janin explained. “New technology and new design is too much. We had similar conversations on electric vehicles before we launched the [electric] Zoe.”
Renault is currently testing adapted Zoes with level-four autonomy on set loops in two locations in France.
By the end of the year, the public will be able to use the cars as part of the trial, albeit with a driver behind the wheel for safety reasons. Renault is aiming to offer such technology on production models by 2022.