Renault Connected Car Director Thierry Viadieu is confident that his company will be in the car business a decade from now. He is less sure that will be the case for Google and Apple. He explained why and also outlined how automakers are shaking off the image of being "dinosaurs" in an interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Olive Keogh.
What are the main challenges in the move toward connected cars?
Keeping the connectivity fresh once we have sold the car. Cars have a product cycle of about five years. Connectivity has a life cycle of about 18 months. We have much longer cycles not because we are dinosaurs, but because of the heavy set of constraints we face in terms of regulations. Customers are already used to frequent automatic updates for their PCs and smartphones. We must head in this direction with connected cars.
What roles will Google and Apple play?
That is the question everyone is asking and the possible roles are clearer for Google than for Apple. Google wants to enter the car the same way it got into the smartphone – via the operating system. Their target is to have Android running the car. With Apple it is more complicated to figure out what they are doing. Will they jump into the automotive business themselves or partner with someone? Maybe they could buy Tesla. On one hand they have a lot of money to do so. On the other if they analyze what becoming an automaker means, they will think twice. This business is very tough. Someone said to me recently, in 10 years you will still be in the automotive business for sure. Google and Apple may not be interested anymore.
Connectivity is expensive. Does Renault absorb all of the costs involved?
These systems are a must have. If we were speaking about engines we wouldn’t be having a discussion about cost. Connectivity is becoming more and more mandatory. Now when we design and develop a car it is part of the cost just like the engine and other equipment and the price is determined by the market. We are not treating the cost separately.
What is the most expensive part of connected car?
As of now computing power and the amount we need inside the car to process the graphics for example. The reference point for customers is their smartphone or tablet. They are expecting the same responsiveness from the system in their car. We need a lot of power to manage this interface in a very smooth way and it is very costly. Secondly, we need to use infrastructure to manage the data in the connected car and this is also quite costly.