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back to article Renault unveils mini-SUV equipped with a QUADCOPTER DRONE

Visitors to the Delhi Auto Expo motor show are getting the first look at a new concept car from Renault, the Kwid, which features a controllable quadrocopter drone that flies out of the roof. "This is the first time we have chosen to reveal a concept car outside Europe and this is an eloquent sign of our commitment to India," …

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Anonymous Coward

I launched a small drone from the window of a van I was driving once. I was stuck in traffic and wanted to see if my alternate route was also blocked- turned out it wasnt but the traffic jam stopped at a set of lights a few car-lengths after the turn-off to the alternate route.

Aside from the legal issues and potential for Kamikaze road rage drones I cant see much of a problem with this sort of thing.

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I cant see much of a problem with this sort of thing.

Until a couple of them collide, come out of the sky and spent the last bit of their kinetic energy making a nice dent in a roof or, worse, in a person (this won't just be used on the road). Or when the first people get convicted for invasion of privacy without the defence and lawyer budget of being police or a journalist. Or when Johnny End User forgets that batteries have a limited lifetime, or when the OS crashes and it bricks in mid air. Or ..

I can see *loads* of trouble ahead, but also a new market in drone jammers :).

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Mushroom

"or when the OS crashes and it bricks in mid air. Or .."

...or when a big jam suddenly happens and 3000 drones all lift off within seconds of each other.

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JDX
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or when the OS crashes and it bricks in mid air

Your modern car is already computer controlled but you don't drive along worried the OS might crash.

Drones colliding should be easily overcome with collision avoidance that overrides human input. Watch a big flock of birds and you'll see thousands in close proximity without any communication, yet they don't bump into each other.

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Coat

Re: or when the OS crashes and it bricks in mid air

"Watch a big flock of birds and you'll see thousands in close proximity without any communication"

Not true.

They use Twitter.

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Facepalm

Re: Fred Flintstone

You missed the biggest issue - Renault and their infamously dodgy electrics! The drone will either never take off (especially if there has been rainfaill within the last few hours) or immediately fly into the ground. What the idiots should have done is actually put some safety devices into the car, something that is apparently seriously lacking in the Indian versions of many European and Japanese cars.

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Or of course the tunnel :)

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The Real Elephant in the Room

One has to assume that the Renault engineers have never driven in Mumbai. In a city where you have to deal with suicidal cyclists, scooters, random changes of direction from 25 vehicles at the same time, usually in at least 25 different directions, drivers making their own overtaking lanes on the pavements or in peoples' gardens, people running across 6 lane highways to try to sell something to you, mad bloody mobile phone users and the general Indian driver technique of 'point it towards home, foot down, eyes closed, adding quadcopter drones is simply adding a new technological method of dieing horribly in a blazing wreck.

Honestly, even 10 years later the memory makes me shudder.

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Re: Fred Flintstone

My thoughts exactly, Renault are not exactly known for their reliable electronics, or infact reliability at all. Also the fact they are making a car with more moving parts then necessary, means they'll have more parts to go wrong,

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Interesting concept but

Just a few buts:

As previous commentard said he used one for traffic... Now imagine 500 or 1000 drones launched to scout a traffic jam.

Imagine a "bad guy" launching one to spot the cops as he makes his getaway and the cops launch theirs.

Imagine the kid who launches one to scout other cars for girls and he doesn't pull over... texting and driving all over again.

It will also be interesting to watch the technologically dysfunctional who happen to press the red button to see what it does and wonder why their dash display suddenly changes to the drone-cam.

Let's not forget those who visit certain stores with a blue sign and "mart" in their name... pulling a shotgun to shoot down a rival drone that's scouting parking places... or just for the sport of it.

I also would think that these drones will end needing a license from some government bureaucracy and claim it's in the name of public safety and use it for revenue generation.

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Re: Interesting concept but

Well, you've certainly identified some challenges! I'm not sure you're thinking the criminal potential all the way through.

A criminal might be able to aid his endeavors with a little drone, sure. But I think the smart criminal should wait just a little bit and the manufacturers are sure to offer a few different packages. A drone only package seems like a good idea.

I get that tossing in an SUV to go with your drone seems like a bargain, but the math doesn't really play out that way. Just rough figures here, but it looks like they could shave at least $35-36,000 off the drone price if they get rid of the SUV.

Fuck! What if you've got kids?!?! Where the hell am I going to park all those SUV's? Besides being a pain in the ass, free SUV's with every drone just seems wasteful. It'll be like AOL CD's used to be, except not as useful. We've got to move past this throwaway culture shit or none of us will have any garage space left.

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Re: Interesting concept but

Ah, relax, it's a Renault - therefore the electrics will pack up long before you get the change to "launch your drone" (a euphemism, surely?) :-)

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Re: Interesting concept but

Renault are interesting. Often extremely well-designed, but let down by awful quality.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting concept but

> Just a few buts:

Innovation does not happen by "buts". Innovation means you take risks and you fall flat on your face fairly often. Which is fine: you learn from it and try again.

Buts will not get you very far.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting concept but

Btw, I actually like the idea of carrying a drone in the car. I did something similar once--stuck in what seemed, and was, a country-wide traffic jam in France, I decided to scout the route ahead so diverted to the nearest airfield and hired a C172 to fly along the motorway and a couple of alternate roads. I turned back after 100 km and decided to spend the rest of the day on the beach while waiting for the traffic to clear. I know you'd need a pretty big drone to get that sort of endurance and nowadays in many countries we have somewhat reliable TMC (Traffic Message Channel) anyway, but the idea is still cool, e.g., for scouting county roads or the like.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting concept but

I cannot but agree with the latter part of your statement.

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Re: Interesting concept but

Last year got rid of my 2001 Clio at a gnat's fart short of 200,000km. I'd owned it since 80k and have used it for urban and inter-city drives. It's towed heavy loads up the Great Dividing Range and aside from a slight clutchy smell it coped well. When our 1998 Honda CRV got to that age, it was much the worse for wear.

I know it's only one car, but my 2005 Megane CC hasn't skipped a beat either, neither have friends and family's Renaults.

Not sure what the actual stats are like, but I'm happy with the way they build `em in Dieppe.

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Happy

Re: Interesting concept but

Sure, some cars really are shit. Just awful. Sometimes they don't suit their intended purpose and sometimes a model of car will become popular with the exact opposite of the customer it was aimed at. But overall, cars are still fairly impressive.

Most people will never own anything more complex than an automobile. Hell, even brand new, small fixed wing prop planes are considerably less complex than a mid-1980's Honda Civic. It says a lot about the automotive engineers capabilities that the general public can buy a car about every other block or so.

Their complexity also makes valid, apples-to-apples comparisons nearly impossible. Obviously everyone drives a car differently and under many different conditions, but anytime you start stacking complex systems onto other complex systems you're going to have boatloads of inconsistencies that will pile up and create different problems in each and every complete unit that ships out. A fastener a little tighter than it should be and the instrument cluster housing squeaks in cold weather, one that's a little loose will keep your trunk from closing when it's hot and humid out. There's no way to tell what you're going to get.

Even with the most advanced equipment available nobody can accurately predict where random inconsistencies will reach critical mass. The real bummer, and the fun part to really, is that every time you correct one inconsistency you create at least one more in the process of fixing the first one. That's not a car specific phenomenon, that's a fact of all complex systems.

My point is, that it's entirely normal that you'd have good results with a car identical to your neighbors, but his fell apart in the driveway. In fact, it would be very, very strange if that wasn't the case. Contrary to what many believe, high tolerance components and precision systems aren't desirable for most general uses. All systems become less robust, and dependability falls, as tolerances increase. It is the, fairly sloppy, tolerances that let your car start reliably every morning. Those sloppy tolerances have to come together in random, undesirable ways in some of the units.

Again, that's not to say you didn't get lucky and every other unit like yor was, in fact, a big pile of shit. But you're really never going to truly know till you try it. The A/C in your Maybach is just as likely to quit the day after you take delivery as it is in a Fiat. You'll get nicer service with the Maybach, but broke is broke is broke.

All you can do is research, observe and roll the dice. Unless it's just an absolute piece of shit that's broken while still in the showroom, or nearly all units develop the same problem, then there's no valid way to set expectations for any general use assembly of complex systems like an automobile. You can verify that yourself if you like. Pick a car everybody says sucks and make a chart with the different issues. Unless the issue is nearly universal to that car, your axis will run out of space long before you even get close to fitting the 6,456 wholly unique problems each owner had. If you get more than a handful of the exact same problem it would be a rare, rare thing.

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Joke

The Kwid

Bargain price.

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Facepalm

Sooooo ugly!

Sooooo stupid!

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Isn't kite fighting popular among kids in Asia?

This could be fun. I predict drones with long blades attached.

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Always knew

SUV drivers have small choppers.

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There are situations when a drone would be useful.

Jeep and other makers of offroad vehicles should take note.

Why would indian drivers want the steering wheel in the centre? Is it like in the Philippines, that lanes and driving on the right side of the road are just a kind of suggestion the driver may follow if it's not too inconvenient?

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Re: There are situations when a drone would be useful.

I promise I'm not being a smartass, but how would this improve today's consumer off road vehicles? I guess the novelty factor is something. But as near as I can tell, 'off road vehicles' today can't actually go off road. That ended when they did away with straight axles and leaf springs all the way around. HUMVEES are fucking useless unless you are following an actual, modern, Main Battle Tank. Poor old Land Rover is truly a study in the power of wishful thinking and Jeep... Jeep is the crown jewel accessory that tells you, without a doubt, your kid won't be following in your footsteps. Unimogs are about all that's left, sadly.

They don't seem to be hiding that fact either. Heated leather seats, carpet for Christ's sake, automatic transmissions and auto locking hubs are kind of a dead giveaway. While the pitch and roll indicators, with artificial horizon, (I call them vehicle orientation reversed warning indicators, or upside down gauges) look kind of cool, they don't actually provide you with useful information if the vehicle is in motion or if you have some sort of severe inner ear disorder (vehicle still has to be stopped though). If if the latter is something that you have, then congratulations on getting into the vehicle! Overcoming our individual challenges is probably your species greatest talent.

I would stress however, that if taking a $50,000+ ORV, that isn't actually capable of the OR part, into an OR area sounds like a viable plan then the drone should provide a unique perspective on your (the generic you, not the actual you) own death from exposure while only 35m from the main road. YouTube will love it!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are situations when a drone would be useful.

> But as near as I can tell, 'off road vehicles' today can't actually go off road.

By and large, you're correct.

I will however say a couple of things, based on my experience of spending a few years in, mostly, sandy places with not many roads to be found.

* The Humvee (the original military version--not to be confused with the "Hummer" brand) is not such a bad off-road vehicle. At least not for the desert, mostly thanks to its high ground clearance and wide wheel base. Mind you, those tyres are heavy so if you're on your own and have a punch, you better be fit. Also, mechanically it's not the most reliable thing in the world--they're very good by most standards, but I've had my share of broken axles and transmissions. And automatic transmission, which is useless on an off-road vehicle. :(

* The "poor old" Land Rover is a fairly good off-road vehicle. Not less reliable than the Humvee and serves its purpose well.

* I have no experience with Jeeps, but being a vehicle designed over 70 years ago, is this a fair comparison? Unless you're referring to something else, of course. I've no idea if the brand has been reused for something else.

* Unimogs. No argument there from me. :) Well, except that they're so fucking expensive. German expensive if you like. But the quality is there to match.

* The Toyota Land Cruiser (70 series) is pretty much all you'll see in the deserts of the World, and for a reason. In its size category, there simply isn't anything more reliable, and if they do break, they're remarkably easy to fix, or at least to get them mobile again.

* I do not have experience with them myself, but people speak with reverence about Tatra trucks. Probably in the same category as Unimogs?

> Heated leather seats, carpet for Christ's sake, automatic transmissions and auto locking hubs are kind of a dead giveaway

Electric windows or mirrors and AC are dead giveaways! Let alone carpets. And of course, you're spot on about auto transmissions. :-/

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Re: There are situations when a drone would be useful.

The old CJ Jeeps (the Jeep Jeeps :) were pretty good vehicles. Like most things, it's what you don't see that makes something fit for purpose and the newer Jeeps have the look, but underneath it's a crummy mid-size sedan. You could actually fix failures of serious parts in the field with the old ones, but with the 'feel good' steering geometry of the new ones they're nearly (or actually) impossible to drive without putting it on a rack for alignment. I guess it's the fact that the new ones are masquerading as something they are not that irritates me. This is probably unfair for me to say, but the owners of the new ones tend to give me a headache. It really bothers me when people put such gigantic tires on a vehicle (for better clearance & off road performance) that they lose most of the articulation of the suspension because the tires are lodged against the wheel wells after 2" of vertical travel.

To be fair, the only Land Rover I've ever seen off road was an old Defender and it was badass. The Discovery (here in the US anyway) hasn't been much of anything since they went to fuel injection. A decade+ and they still can't get that right. The Range Rover is certainly nice, but that's the rub isn't it, sure is awful nice :) The Freeloader I know nothing about. I know they are the vehicle of choice in lots of Africa and Australia though. Maybe I'm jaded by the problems I've seen with the Discovery. I will concede I may have been unfair about them.

But not the HUMVEE. Like so much of all things modern military adaptability has been sacrificed for increased performance in one area. They have enormous ground clearance, at the vehicle centerline. That clearance falls off dramatically as you move toward the wheels, but that's manageable. But their hub system is simply enormous and you get next to no clearance at the wheels. That's true with traditional setups too, but you can bonk and bend the control arms and force a vehicle forward. The HUMVEE assembly is so enormous and strong it can't bend or be deflected. If a battle of will the giant rock is always stronger than car parts and you're either stuck or broke and a regular wrecker can't even move them. You've got to call in a bigger one.

On flat surfaces or sand or fording water they really are badass. And these nothing better if you're following a tank (that's why the weird geometry) but in forested and/or rocky areas you're better off with a mule. Or just walking :)

We have a UniMog here at work, we use it to to scoot big skids of raw materials around so the gantry crane can move them inside the facility. We used to have a big OshKosh materials truck for that but it was just too big and the big Chevy trucks just got stuck all the time. We were going to buy a big heavy equipment wrecker but one of the guys found the UniMog at a federal facilities auction in nearby Virginia so we went. I was the only bidder and paid just $17,500 + auction fees for it :)

It is the most unstoppable vehicle I've ever seen. We have this huge pit way out in the middle of a field where we keep really dangerous stuff until HazMat people come take it away (it's actually designed for that, we aren't just hucking deadly chemicals and such in a random hole). The top 30' or so is just bare earth, not vertical, but really steep, and the UniMog goes up, down even sideways without falling over. It's just an extremely well built machine we can service ourselves and my absolute favorite part is that this monster of a vehicle with no round corners except on the wheels and not one bit of plastic inside has a really nice Alpine stereo system with CD player (with USB) full component separates two amplifiers and a 12" subwoofer. Obviously aftermarket, but extremely well integrated by the previous owner (taxpayers probably paid a fortune for it) and it's just so out of place. It makes me smile every time I'm in it or hear it go by my office. Ha!

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Re: off road vehicles for off road use

I would just like to chip in my 2c.

My dad had a Land Rover, Defender 90, and it was great. All easily removable seats, metal climb plates all over it, and covered in mud, as all good off roaders should be. Never got to drive it unfortunately, far too young.

On the other hand, I see on a daily basis a horde of BMW x3's x5's and x6's and Porsche Cayanns (sp?) and they make me wince. Seems they are no longer just 'Chelsea' Tractors.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are situations when a drone would be useful.

> They have enormous ground clearance, at the vehicle centerline. That clearance falls off dramatically as you move toward the wheels, but that's manageable. But their hub system is simply enormous and you get next to no clearance at the wheels.

That's exactly how I lost a front axle the second time!

The first time I lost a front axle was through a sudden application of torque while steering in a tight radius--I blame that one on bad driving technique on my part.

17.5K for a Unimog? That's a steal!

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Facepalm

What a great idea...

... nothing can go wrong... go wrong... go wrong...

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"Should leave some interesting skin patterns after a long drive"

"...and the interior is made up of strips of material to allow for easy airflow"

But at least they thought about seat air flow... also important on a long drive.

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Parallels of Disaster

I don't actually understand why anyone would want this, but hey, I've got no right to say what's desirable for people. Hell, according to my wife I don't understand anything fun. It's why she wouldn't let me buy a downtown parking garage and convert it into a low maintenance, easily defended home that you could also drive around in without tearing up the parquet floors like a golf cart inside a regular house. She doesn't know shit about fun.

I digress, I may not understand the consumer appeal, but I have an exhaustive, and comprehensive, body of experience why things like this are terrible for manufacturers, of anything. It's because the only difficult part about any business with a wide audience are the customers. Customers are like a prostate exam, you've got to have at least one every so often, but that doesn't mean they don't also suck.

They don't suck out of malice (usually) or even stupidity (sometimes). It's the fact that you have to produce something that does one thing well enough (like drive, in a car example) but add in 17,513.4 other trivial things that are nearly indestructible but have no real instructions for use and care and nobody to read them even if instructions were included. In my opinion, cars and software UI's represent the ultimate challenges in all categories of design, but I'll stay on cars.

Think about it, if you ignore the driving part, almost every single aspect of operating every system in a car is an organic societal function. A person might take driving lessons, more probably should, but nobody is going to ask you how to roll down a window unless your car is really weird, 'everybody' knows how to do that. Observational learning is why child safety locks and windows on the rear doors weren't enough. It took little Billy about five seconds to determine he could still open the door by reaching the outside handle. So now some rear windows barely open wide enough to flip someone off for driving too close.

Anyway, 'everybody' knows how car systems work, but 11 different people will interact with the door handles 11 different ways. Same with every other system. Because something only performs its primary function one way does not mean secondary functions cannot exist. Prime example: The Traveling Salesman (the actual people, not the systems problem).

They're kind of rare today, but not too long ago you would regularly see people with an entire clothiers inventory hanging on a closet rod suspended by the interior pull handles above the rear doors. At no point did anyone anticipate those shitty little handles would be used to hang 500lbs of wool suits. In fact, in passenger cars (not trucks & SUV's) those handles are specifically designed so that unless you have an extra arm, or a wrist that bends opposite of everyone else, you can't actually put the full weight of a human on them.

But hanging all your clothes like that was the life of the traveling sales droid. Needless to say, many of those handles were torn down by 200 sheep worth of wool in sudden braking situations. Now we've got angry customers with a massive territory to spread their message of hate because the handles broke.

I use this example because Vovlo, preferred automobile choice of US based sales droids, had a real problem. The design of the cars prevented using a deeper anchor for the handles, so in later models a new rail was added to the roof and an all new, less attractive, interior roof panel, plus the millions in new tooling and new assembly protocols.

That was a stupidly long way to say that manufacturers would be idiots to put drones in cars. It is absolutely guaranteed to be insanely expensive to deal with all the dumb shit people will do with it. And make no mistake about it, it will be the fault of the manufacturer when somebody launches their car off a cliff and the drone fails to carry the car. Or when little Billy attaches his new little sister to the drone and launches them both out the window while traveling down the DC Beltway.

Sure, the manufacturers may win the lawsuits, but that doesn't mean you don't have to pay millions to deal with them and millions more trying to educate consumers without calling the fucking idiots fucking idiots. So very much of the costs of things like cars and buildings are down to idiot proofing. We design and produce test rigs for an unbelievable array of products and they aren't cheap. The fact that those things are even needed is definitive proof that stupid people are an unnecessary burden on the not stupid parts of society. It makes everything cost too much and even though we make a lot of money using advanced technology to out stupid stupid people, I would much rather be using all these super clever people to continue work on my ThinkTank - Theater Scale Market Incursion and Mobile Capitalism Command Vehicle (powered by AdWords if talks with Google go well).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Parallels of Disaster

And make no mistake about it, it will be the fault of the manufacturer when somebody launches their car off a cliff and the drone fails to carry the car. Or when little Billy attaches his new little sister to the drone and launches them both out the window while traveling down the DC Beltway.

Love the examples - reminds me of the cruise control meme :).

BTW, I'm with you on the parking garage conversion, provided it's an older lot where you still had actual headroom. I like *space*, so I'd do this the moment I'd win the lottery (in which case I would also have enough spare cash to actually need one level for *parking* :)

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Boffin

Re: Don Jefe Re: Parallels of Disaster

"....the manufacturers may win the lawsuits...." This is India, the winner of any form of legal argument is completely down to the size of the wallets involved.

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Pint

Re: Parallels of Disaster

"I don't actually understand why anyone would want this,"

To get me around the booze bus induced traffic jams that frequent my area.

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Megaphone

Re: Parallels of Disaster

In short:

"Just as soon as you make something foolproof, some jackass goes and makes a better fool!"

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What happens when the traffic starts moving and your drone is still airborne? Makes shaving while driving look like amateur hour.

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Anonymous Coward

I've been in India.

A paper white and light grey vehicle interior is a profoundly impractical choice.

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Wouldn't a giant drone that can carry an SUV and a family of four on the school run be a better match for the target audience?

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gimmick

A more efficient (and safe) way to know conditions ahead would be the kind of GPS traffic feedback Google maps etc. already have.

Having spent a significant amount of time in that part of the world, i noted that trucks squashing minibuses jam packed with twice the legal number of occupants were a daily occurrence. I further noted (judging by the large crowd of gormless onlookers who never seemed to help or be even slightly moved by the mass carnage) that fatal car crashes were also the most popular form of entertainment. So it seems to me this Renault guy is slightly sugar coating it by claiming it will be used to see 'how serious a traffic jam is' - what he means is 'get some great video of severed heads and body parts'.

In a country with some of the most dangerous roads in the world, you'd think they'd be focusing on making a car that could survive a collision with a truck driven by an imbecile. But no, they've decided to accept that's how things are and build in the ultimate robot rubber-necking tool.

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The Mach 5 revisited!

Wow, am I the only one who remembers? Speed Racer's car had a remote-controlled drone almost 50 years ago. Granted that it was only a cartoon, but this ain't a new concept. That was my favorite feature of the Mach 5... but not in the real world! Recipe for disaster in the hands of the public.

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