Have you ever ordered something online and ticked the fastest delivery option before checking out? Even with the expedited shipping fee costing twice as much as the regular option, it often never says that the item will arrive twice as fast. You eventually end up going back to cheaper shipping since the rush service is not worth the premium. But Renault wants you to get your packages faster and at next to no cost with the very clever EZ-PRO concept vehicle.
The EZ-PRO is Renault’s answer to the problems of last-mile delivery. You see, once you click that checkout button on your favorite online retailer, your package obviously gets clothed in bubble wrap and sorted at the warehouse first. That’s the easy bit since the item is in storage all along waiting for an impulsive soul like you to whip out the credit card. The hard part is when the package gets put in a truck/van or on a moped, and is wheeled off to meet its buyer.
Last-mile delivery is basically the final phase of a shipment where the package gets to its destination. And that’s the part that gives buyers, shippers and sellers lots of headaches (and often heartaches). The delivery vehicles drop off a few packages at long-distance intervals, which means that a lot of their time is wasted on heavy traffic, bad roads and the lack of parking on city streets. Buyers, on the other hand, are at the mercy of the shipper’s speed, which frustrates them and so they end up lashing out on the seller just because the customer is always right.
And then, there’s the issue of cost. According to the American business solutions provider Honeywell, last-mile delivery accounts for more than half of the overall delivery cost. Again, this is due to the inherent inefficiencies of the current system, where the price is passed on to consumers. And since consumers start frothing at the mouth whenever they hear the word “free,” most retailers now offer fast and free shipping. But because the delivery guy often finds himself sitting idle in traffic and getting no productive work done, shipping is nowhere near fast nor free.
The Renault EZ-PRO aims to reduce delivery times and minimize shipping costs by basically being a self-contained, self-powered robotic warehouse. It consists of a lead pod and several trailer pods that can either follow their leader or go anywhere independently. While the lead pod is driverless, a human operator takes up residence in it. This operator acts as a concierge for accepting orders or attending to customer calls, and a dispatcher for managing the routes of the autonomous trailer pods.
Each pod is designed with Renault’s vast experience in light commercial vehicles. The self-driving vehicle is optimized for on-demand delivery solutions in urban areas. Customers can choose precisely when and where they want their packages to be delivered. But it doesn’t stop there. The modular construction lets the EZ-PRO be customized depending on the role it’s supposed to fulfill. From robotic food trucks to self-propelled clothing stalls, each EZ-PRO pod can meet a wide variety of business needs.
Renault claims that the EZ-PRO will help alleviate traffic woes within cities. The flexibility of the design ensures that the use of each EZ-PRO platoon is maximized every time it hits the road. Each of the pod’s electronic brains can connect with existing infrastructure such as traffic lights, which should help reduce congestion brought about by badly parked delivery vehicles. And the best part of all? The EZ-PRO is 100% electric, so not only is it fast and punctual, it is also sustainable.
The future of online shopping may one day be with localized small-scale entrepreneurs with fleets of EZ-PROs whizzing around the city. Your next purchase on the Internet may no longer ask how long you want to wait for your item. Instead, you’ll be given options on the exact time and location you want an EZ-PRO to show up with your package.