Renault aims to make toll booths a breeze for autonomous cars

Its partnership with Sanef could make toll bridges an eyes-off/hands-off issue.

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PA Archive/PA Images
PA Archive/PA Images

With autonomous vehicles at the top of car manufacturer's to-do lists, many are focusing on the basic technology required to get self-driving cars on the road -- and we've seen a number of partnerships formed as a result. Renault, however, is looking further ahead and has partnered with French road toll operator Sanef to develop technology that works with existing road infrastructure. Namely toll barriers, which Sanef, with 1,700km of road under its control, is famously zealous about.

One of the overarching questions surrounding self-driving cars is what happens at barrier road crossings -- a simple obstacle for a regular car and driver but a massive challenge for autonomous vehicles in providing continuous eyes-off/hands-off travel. The two firms are therefore developing equipment which will allow toll road infrastructure to communicate with cars using short-range WiFi, enabling the vehicles to take appropriate action.

The pair initially started work on the project in June 2016, trialling its developments along the A13 freeway in Normandy, with research expected to continue until 2018. According to Renault, the car will receive information about an upcoming toll barrier about one kilometer in advance and will then anticipate and take its position in a lane compatible with autonomous vehicles. The car will slow down according to speed signs, and will stay in the center of the lane using sensors and virtual lines derived from a high-definition map of the site.

"Maximising safety for drivers, passengers and others with autonomous cars requires several stakeholders in both government and the private sector working together, each bringing unique expertise." said Renault's Mathieu Lips, commenting on the unique partnership. "Our goal is to work with Sanef to develop advances in safety and the right solutions to bring as soon as possible to customers the most comfortable travel in autonomous drive without interruption."

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