Can software really define a vehicle? Renault and Google are betting on it.

Can software really define a vehicle? Renault and Google are betting on it.

Renault was founded in 1898, a long time before computers and the internet. It’s not surprising that the current goals of the Renault Group are high-tech and modern. For instance, the Renault Group is working toward being carbon neutral in Europe by 2040, two years after the Stellantis supergroup’s 2038 target. And Renault just minted an expanded partnership with Google for in-vehicle software.

Electronics has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years. Renault claims that the partnership is focused upon the “Software Defined Vehicle” which gives more opportunities to update its cars and further ties together tech and autos. Although it may sound strange, SDV is a term that is on the rise as more automakers embrace electric vehicles and find ways to increase efficiency. Rivian and other tech companies have been releasing over-the-air software upgrades, elevating their status as a tech company. Soft Sand Mode was a great example of this, which appeared as magic on customers’ touchscreens earlier in the year.

The Renault Group consists of four brands: Renault and Dacia, Alpine, Mobilize, and Mobilize. It formed an alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors in 2016 and has boosted its performance credibility with Formula 1 cars under the Alpine name. Collaboration with Google is the next frontier. Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo stated that the complexity of electronic architecture is growing exponentially due to the sophistication of the functionalities, and services required by customers. The SDV [software-defined vehicle] approach, developed in partnership by Google, will transform our vehicles to better serve future customers’ needs. It includes a shared IT platform, continuous updates over-the-air, and simplified access to car data.

Can software really define a vehicle? Renault and Google are betting on it.

Renault claims it will “eventually convert its entire operational model [to the cloud] for more agility, higher performance, and greater profitability.” This means that Renault can collect more data about customers’ driving habits and retain them. These are two of the most important metrics for automakers. By creating what it calls a digital twin–a digital representation of the physical machine–in the cloud, Google and Renault can use AI to quickly make changes and improvements. This type of tech allows for changes to be quickly tested and monitored digitally before being released to the physical world. This reduces the chance of errors.

The alignment between the Mountain View, California tech firm and the Boulogne-Billancourt, France-based manufacturer started in 2018. This announcement makes Google the preferred cloud supplier for Renault Group, playing a major role in the “Move to Cloud” digital transformation of the automotive conglomerate.

Renault Group, and Google are working together to improve driver experience by predicting maintenance intervals or detecting mechanical problems. Software-defined vehicles (SDVs) can adapt to individual driving patterns and route towards EV charging stations, as well as other frequent destinations.

Renault doesn’t seem to be the only one taking this approach. Tesla has embraced a software-focused strategy for several years and Hyundai is jumping in, vowing that every one of its models will be an SDV by 2025. Renault claims that its tech focus can also impact insurance models based upon actual usage and driving behavior. This may or may not be a good thing depending on your driving habits.

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