The EZ-pro platoon consists of a lead vehicle followed by driverless robo-pods behind it.
The EZ-pro platoon consists of a lead vehicle followed by driverless robo-pods behind it.

As we head towards a future of self-driving cars and taxis, it’s inevitable that artificial intelligence will also find its way into goods vehicles.

Renault revealed its EZ-Pro self-driving delivery van concept vehicle at the Hannover Motor Show in Germany. It’s a move that will alarm delivery drivers, but Renault says humans still have a place and will work hand-in-hand with robotically-brained vehicles.

EZ-Pro is a concept that consists of an autonomous leader pod with a cockpit for a human operator, with a train, or platoon, of driverless robo-pods behind it. The human "concierge", free of the necessity of driving, manages the fleet of cars in the platoon and ensures efficient and customised service such as in-person, premium delivery of groceries or fragile objects.

The cars behind the lead vehicle have no cockpits and their sides open up to reveal goods packed inside for last-mile deliveries. The self-driving EZ-Pro vehicles can also split from the platoon and drive separately if needed.

Each self-driving car has its own pay station and can be used for just one company, or shared with multiple businesses for greater synergies. When the delivery does arrive, customers can choose to meet the self-driving pod themselves or have the human concierge deliver the goods. Without the human, a smart phone app unlocks the pod to retrieve whatever the customer ordered.

Renault says that the concept will capitalise on the booming last-mile delivery service to reward our habits of instant gratification after ordering things on the internet.

As per the trend, the EZ-Pro pods are purely electric to help eliminate emissions and noise pollution in urban areas.

"Last-mile delivery services are one of the biggest opportunities for disruption in professional delivery services. As e-commerce continues to explode, consumers want immediate delivery, retailers need to manage delivery costs and cities continue to look for new ways of managing intensified traffic and congestion," says a Renault spokesperson.

"Renault EZ-Pro shows our vision of last-mile delivery integrated with the ecosystem of smart cities of tomorrow and the needs of professionals."

Last-mile delivery makes up 30% of traffic in cities — a burden which EZ-Pro can help relieve thanks to its shared shipping delivery solution, flexibility and autonomous driving, says Renault. These will contribute to fewer vehicles during rush hour and fewer traffic jams caused by poor driving habits or badly parked delivery vehicles.

Smooth traffic flow will be further enhanced by connecting the robo-vehicle to city infrastructure like traffic lights and traffic control centre.