First drive: Renault Symbioz autonomous prototype

A moment I’m in the driver’s seat of the Renault Symbioz demo car prototype, seeing the system of dealing with the vagaries of the cars around me as I cruise down a French highway in the bright light of the sun. Only the sound of the torrential rain suggests that something is not right.

Moments later, the sky darkens, the cars will fade away until only trailing the red brake light remains, and I’m driving in the heart of a futuristic city. Then, suddenly, I’m in the air, flying with the birds through the clouds, looking down on a vast forest below me.

Renault Symbioz concept is designed to integrate with your home

No, I have not taken leave of my senses – or a copious amount of drugs. Instead, I have been testing a virtual reality experience installed in Renault’s electric, connected, and autonomous Symbioz prototype car to show how people can spend their time in a self-driving car in the future.

While the virtual reality experience is the most extravagant design concept, the Symbioz, the car certainly points out how the Renault foresees the future of the electric and autonomous cars.

Under Renault’s recently announced Car of the Future, ” six-year plan, in 2022, the Renault-Nissan, Mitsubishi alliance will provide eight electric vehicles, 12 electrified models and 15 cars with autonomous systems between level two and level four.

What is the Renault Symbioz demo car?

The Symbioz demo car is markedly different from the Symbioz concept that was shown at the Frankfurt motor show earlier this year, although the two teams, along with the model of the house that can “connect” to, have been developed in parallel.

The Symbioz concept was designed to show what an electric, connected, and autonomous Renault machine could be like in the year 2030. In contrast, the car show is designed to show in the near future the technology that Renault is going to offer in other models of 2023.

Project manager Mathieu Lips, explained: “The purpose of the demonstration car is not to collect data autonomously, but to bring the two worlds together. For a prototype car, take a normal car, add loads of sensors, things of a lot of kit in the boot and go testing. At the same time, go to motor shows and see visions of what autonomous cars. We wanted to bring those together and combine the ideas of the designers with a car capable of autonomous execution.”

The concepts on the Symbioz demo cars have already been tested in a number of prototypes: Renault Talisman the nickname ‘Road Runner’, a self-equipped Espace called ‘Ghost Rider’ and the other Talisman equipped with sensors to match the dimensions of the Symbioz called ‘Mad Max’.

There are No plans to launch a production version of the Symbioz.

Renault Symbioz demonstration of car: power train and specifications

The Symbioz prototype powered by two electric motors located in the rear axle, each of the wheels. The motors combine to produce a maximum power output of 670bhp at 487lb ft of torque, or a continuous output of 482bhp in 406lb ft.

That allows the car to achieve the 0 to 62 mph in around six seconds. Renault has not released the maximum speed of the car. The Symbioz uses a version of the Renault 4Control all-wheel steering system.

It is not double wishbone front suspension, with a multi-link system in the rear, and the steel active shock absorbers all round to adapt the tour to the movement and torque.

The car has three driving modes: Classic, Dynamic, and AD (self-employed), each one with the corresponding illumination and fragrances to establish the difference.

The demonstration car is equipped with a 72kWh of the battery, located under the floor. The architecture has been designed to accommodate batteries with a capacity up to 100kWh. During the test runs, the Symbioz was driven in a charging point that could provide up to 150kW, which allows an 80% charge in less than 30 minutes.

The outside of the Symbioz was the style according to Renault’s current design philosophy, with a sleek look that also increases the reduction of aero – helped by the use of cameras for both, the side mirrors and the rearview mirror.

Renault has designed the Symbioz prototype as a D-segment vehicle in size: is 4092mm long, 1092 mm wide x 1044mm high, with a wheelbase of 3.07 meters. The car weighs around 2200kg.

In the interior of the Renault Symbioz

The rear of the placement of the electric motors and the floor of the battery has also helped to increase the interior space available in the four-seater, with which Renault has been designed to match the E-segment of the machine.

To create extra space, Renault moved the heating system out of the dashboard the windshield of the car and also moved the speakers. Instead of placing them in the door and dashboard, Renault worked with the specialist firm Devialet to install four speakers in the front dash, rear of the console and the two B-pillars.

Renault also took out all the safety features of the door, instead of installing the necessary side impact protection in the seat of arms. The sense of spaciousness in the interior of the car is enhanced by wood panelling in the back and a large panoramic sunroof.

A key question Renault wanted to explore with the Symbioz is, once freed from the need of the unit, what people could do with your time in a car. The Symbioz of the dashboard is dominated by three 12.0 in HD, OLED screens produced by LG. The screens are arranged in L-shape, with the two in the central part of the console’s touch screens, with a smartphone-style interface has also been designed by LG. The interface can also be accessed through a “mirror” of the application on a smartphone, which allows people to access it without needing to reach to the instrument panel when in standalone mode.

What is the Symbioz like to drive?

Our short test in the car didn’t offer much time or ability to truly understand the dynamic capacity of the Symbioz, but it was enough to show that certainly does not feel like a prototype for the unit. There is a little delay in initial pick-up, and you can certainly feel the weight of the vehicle, but the steering is light and responsive at low speed. The visibility is good, thanks to the large windscreen and large side windows.

In the normal mode, the car is sensitive and waves gently in close country, of French origin and the lane of the road. Switch to Dynamic mode, engaged by pressing the logo of Renault in the center of the steering wheel, and – as well as the dashboard to change to a more dramatic style – the steering wheel moves a little closer, the steering stiffens and the car is able to use more of the engine power. As you would expect from an electric car, the instant torque available in this mode, combined with the increased power available, gives a good kick of acceleration, and lets you get started quickly on the road.

What is the Symbioz as in stand-alone mode?

To participate in the autonomous mode, it is necessary to wait until the OLED screen is said to be available, and then firmly press two buttons mounted on the steering wheel. In that time, the car takes control, and the seat is moved away from the dashboard in a ‘zero gravity’ position. You can also tilt up to 15 degrees inward, so that you can talk with a passenger more esily.

The Symbioz offers the level four driving autonomous, by which the car can guide itself with a minimum of supervision, that allows you to pay attention to other tasks – although, for safety reasons, an engineer from Renault with special controls and sat in the passenger seat, ready to regain control.

The autonomous community of the section of our route was made in 50 km to the French part of the road operated by SANEF, with the Symbioz using data from five of the antenna that have been installed on the roads, by which the company to analyze the flow of data. TomTom HD mapping of the information in the car’s computer is then used to validate that the data, while the Symbioz uses a series of sensors and cameras to track vehicles around in order to change lanes.

While the system had an initial reluctance to switch to the autonomous mode in our unit, once it engaged it was very smooth and quickly become confident in their ability to read the road and other drivers, even in conditions of heavy rain.

A large, LG-developed head-up display features augmented-reality-style overlays that show the Symbioz desired trajectory, as well as the movement and direction of other cars. The screen is designed to reassure nervous users of the cars the ability to monitor and react to all situations, and it also adds a computer game-feel to continue.

Outside of the route includes a toll road, showing how the car uses the data of the fed to react. The information is taken from SANEF about the casetas are open to the labelling of the car in order to select an appropriate lane on the approach, and then slows down to an appropriate speed before you travel through it at 20km/h to auto – process the payment as it goes.

You experience a virtual world in a real car

Of course, seeing a car through a toll booth, it is quite mundane – and by that, to show how you can pass the time, Renault manager of Ubisoft with the development of a virtual reality experience.

Put on the VR headset with autonomous mode and the first time that shows a virtual representation of the interior of a Symbioz. Cleverly, the program takes real-time data from the car so that it matches the movement of the vehicle and highlight the cars around you.

As was pointed out, however, what starts out as a virtual representation of reality ends with floating on a vast forest, with only some subtle green dots to the left to place the road and keep your horizon.

Once the program ends, it is something of a shock to return the headset and in the middle of a French road in a rain-lashed day – which perhaps shows why, in the future, people can choose to spend the long trips to pass the time in a virtual world, while your car does the hard work in the real world.

The future of the Symbioz

The Symbioz demo car is strictly a one-off, based on a measure of the platform that was not created with the intention for the production. But both the electric technology, connected systems, and autonomous functions within it – although almost certainly not the VR – headset will be available in Renault models in the next five years or so.

It is, without doubt, one of the most consistent and secure connection of the autonomous systems we have experienced yet – and, thanks to the VR headset, one of the most surreal…

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