The campus at the University of Paris-Saclay is so green and blue at the same time, it’s hard not to imagine yourself in some resto-mod version of a Monet painting. It’s no wonder that the gleaming blue Zoe EV in the pictures fit perfectly with the environment. But this is no ordinary version of Renault’s rather cute looking budget electric hatchback. What you see in the photos is an autonomous EV and that too, one with level four capabilities in terms of driving ability.
The car that we sat in had a three-seat lounge like layout and the whole cabin gets this blue ambient lighting that comes on when it switches to autonomous mode just to ensure that you know what you are up to.
Giving the power of autonomy to this Zoe EV are wide range cameras, sensors Radars and LIDARs. In addition, the test team has also fitted external sensors in various locations on the test route and also taps into cameras around the campus to keep track of the cars. Once a cab has been selected and it shows up, all you have to do is get in, register with the on -board computers that you have got in and the cab sets off.
As a safety measure and in keeping with government regulations, there is always an emergency driver behind the wheel. Further, Renault only sends out the Zoes in pairs (one autonomous and one with a driver) as a safety measure and also because the testing equipment is incredibly expensive. There is a sense of, I would like to say, surprise, when you see an autonomous vehicle set off for the first time- especially while sitting in it! On the go, the cars are limited to 30kmph (the eventual goal is 50kmph) and follows traffic rules down to the T, unlike our own jugaadu drivers .
It stopped at every junction, obeyed signals, detected human beings and took the necessary action to avoid them. There wasn’t a single moment where the driver had to intervene and instead he sat ice-cold calm and focussed the whole way with his hands off the wheel.