Google and Renault are racing towards a future of software-defined vehicles


Virtual testing capability for new AI-enabled features is also planned


In recent years, Google has made inroads into the automotive industry with Android Auto to mirror your phone’s functionality for in-car infotainment, and Android Automotive, an operating system specifically designed for cars, with plug-in Support for Play Store and built-in Google Assistant. Now, its next step looks even more ambitious, as the company has announced a new partnership with French automaker Renault to create a “software-defined vehicle” based on Android Automotive.

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In 2018, Google partnered with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to bring Android Automotive to several car models made by one of the largest corporate groups in the automotive industry. Under the new deal, Google will be Renault’s “preferred cloud provider” and the brands will use Google’s cloud servers to create a “Digital Twin”, an AI-powered virtual copy of a vehicle.

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Through combined software development and testing, the companies hope to create a simulation to build AI-powered features for the vehicle. A major component of the system also includes the ability to add new features to the vehicle’s roster via OTA updates.

Ideally, such a system could facilitate real-time diagnosis of automotive problems. The system could also offer a highly personalized in-car software experience, much like how we can customize Android to our liking today. The companies suggest we could see insurance models tailored to individual use and driving behavior, and cars adapting to the way they are driven. We got a glimpse of what that could mean for the average car owner with the Polestar 2 in 2020, but we’ve heard little about it since.

Honestly, all of the talk of this Renault-Google system of the future is proving very hyped – unpromising and sounding rather ambiguous – and it’s pretty hard to get any real sense of what this effort will actually accomplish. Hopefully, we’ll soon start seeing real software experience developments in Android Automotive and Renault-branded cars. Until that happens, you’re probably stuck with Android Auto on your daily driver.