Renault Offers New Use for Drones: Traffic Monitoring

Renault’s concept drone flies through the Kwid’s concept interior.

Renault’s new concept car gives drivers an unusual companion: a small flying drone, controllable via tablet or preset GPS waypoints, which scans the area ahead for obstacles and traffic.

Designed with the Indian market in mind, the Renault Kwid has a SUV-style body that makes it ideal for off-roading. It’s the first concept car unveiled by the company outside of Europe. The so-called “flying companion” can exit the vehicle via a retractable hatch in the roof, and buzz around the immediate vicinity shooting video and photos; as this is a concept, actual hardware and software specs aren’t available, although Renault’s engineers envision something closer to the size of a small bird than some of the larger drones currently available. (Hat tip to Wired for the initial links to Renault’s concept videos.)

Renault’s engineers found their inspiration for the Kwid’s shape in American off-roaders, with a high chassis and sturdy lines; inside, the driver sits in the middle as opposed to the right or left, on a bench seat. The vehicle can accommodate five people total.

But how practical is a “driving drone”? Considering all the accidents caused by people texting or Web-surfing while driving, it seems questionable to introduce a piece of hardware that could prove even more distracting—imagine trying to successfully guide a drone with touch-screen controls while navigating a fast-paced roadway, and you can see why the idea of a “flying companion” would raise the collective blood pressure of traffic-safety officials.

Yes, it would be safer for a passenger to handle drone-flying duties while the driver concentrates on the road; but it’s also a near-certainty, if such a concept ever went into production, that more than one driver would attempt to multi-task the navigation of two vehicles at once.

The fact that a company like Renault is even playing with an auto-drone concept just makes it that much more imperative for the FAA (and similar bodies in other countries) to finalize rules for dealing with unmanned aerial vehicles—because the latter are entering domestic use, whether people like them or not. Amazon has publicly toyed with delivery drones (although there’s a widespread idea that such vaporware will never come to market), and ice fishermen in Wisconsin recently had their beer-delivery drone shut down by the FAA. How long until a Ford or Tesla starts playing with the idea of a drone companion to their latest vehicles?

Meanwhile, here’s Renault’s video:

 

Images/video: Renault

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