Back in 2010, Nissan became the world’s first automaker to manufacture and produce an affordable, 100-percent electric car. A few months later, its alliance partner Renault followed suit with not one but four new electric cars designed for a variety of different budgets and market segments.
Since then, the Renault-Nissan Alliance has sold more than 350,000 electric cars around the world and, as we discovered back in January this year, have plans to bring many more plug-in cars to market in the next five to ten years. Some of those — including future generations of Nissan LEAF — will come with semi-autonomous capabilities, allowing them to take over driving duties, first with basic traffic jam assist and lane following capabilities but later full Level 4 or higher autonomy designed to give the driver a choice in driving or not.
Like rival automaker Tesla, that means the Renault-Nissan alliance will not only need to develop its in-car technology to facilitate the dawn of fully customizable self-driving cars but also develop their own communications infrastructure to make it possible for cars to communicate not only with a central telematics center but to communicate with one another as well. Which is why Renault Nissan announced a brand-new partnership with Microsoft this morning designed to help the alliance ready itself for next-generation communications and telecommunications technologies, prepare for the future of self-driving cars, and pave the way to a future where our cars become an extension of our living room or office.
According to the official Renault-Nissan press release announcing the partnership, the alliance has chosen the software giant to help it build software that it hopes will “make it easier for people to stay connected to work, entertainment and social networks,” while simultaneously offering “vehicle centric services that will simply and enhance engagement with the car through usage-based information, remote diagnostics and preventative maintenance.”
In other words, Renault-Nissan wants its future cars to offer the same kind of always-on Internet connection found in cars like the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, and upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV. That, says the alliance, will make it possible for any issues with the car to be remotely diagnosed, reducing the amount of time that a car needs to visit the dealership for repairs, as well as making it super-easy for vehicle rollouts and new features to be added, all without requiring the customer to take time out of their day to visit a dealership.
Essentially, where Tesla led on connected cars, Renault-Nissan wants to follow.
Some reading this will of course note that Nissan already uses a remote telematics service in its LEAF and e-NV200 electric cars that makes it possible for owners to remotely monitor their car’s state of charge, precondition the cabin and even program the satellite navigation system. But while the original Nissan Carwings telematics system (or NissanConnect as it is now known) can provide some functionality that gives a connected car experience, it isn’t capable of the two-way continuous data connection that is essential for Renault-Nissan to develop user-customizable connected services and autonomous driving.
For that, Renault-Nissan needs a massive cloud-based infrastructure that can be easily scaled to accommodate new functionality and increased numbers of connected cars. Which is where Microsoft’s cloud-based platform Azure comes in.
“While the connected car experience is in its infancy, we believe there’s so much potential to dramatically change the industry,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president of Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations. “We are partnering to accelerate Renault-Nissan’s mobile and cloud strategies and unlock new experiences for their customers.”
We’re sure that some readers will feel apprehensive about Microsoft’s new partnership with Renault-Nissan — especially if they’re not fans of Microsoft’s computer operating system. It’s worth remembering however that Microsoft is no stranger to the automotive industry, with plenty of mainstream automakers (including Ford) already using Microsoft as both parts supplier and partner for a large number of different applications from on-board entertainment systems through to telematics and discrete in-vehicle systems. Moreover, those systems — and the way they work — are completely different to the way your PC at home works.
In other words, your new Nissan LEAF or Renault ZOE won’t suddenly be giving you the Blue Screen of Death — or bugging you to update to Windows 10.
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