The Renault-Nissan alliance's investments in autonomous driving and connected services are key to helping the partners remain competitive as the world's leading automakers shift their emphasis toward becoming mobility providers. To help with this transition, Renault-Nissan has hired former Nokia and Motorola executive Ogi Redzic to lead their global connected car initiative. Redzic explained how Renault-Nissan is preparing for when customers spend less time driving and more time doing other tasks while in the car. He spoke with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Bruce Gain.
Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said autonomous vehicle deployment will become prevalent by 2019, giving drivers more freedom to do things in the car besides driving. What is your vision?
The value of autonomy is saving people time, such as when commuting, and especially, when stuck in traffic. The value is that you don't have to hold the wheel, but how you use that time. If autonomous driving is available in 2019, then clearly, you will need connectivity to be able to better communicate in the car or for video conferencing, for example. The user interface must change. These are things you should be able to do in your car.
How does your appointment reflect Renault-Nissan's aim to become a mobility provider?
What it shows is the increasing importance of both connectivity, which is one part of my job, and that the industry is not just about selling cars but making mobility services relevant for people. We see there are more people living in cities and that parking is increasingly a problem and that car-sharing is growing significantly. As a car company, we must decide what we need to do in order to enable our vehicles to adapt to such possibilities as fleet and car-sharing programs, for example. It is something that the alliance is developing.
Is car-sharing changing car ownership and mobility?
Yes, but it does not mean we will sell fewer cars. It just means that there is a new segment that it will be very important to address. It is very clear that mobility services are becoming key for car companies.
Are companies such as Google and Apple enablers or disrupters?
Google drew a lot of attention with its autonomous driving concept, which has helped other car companies to invest in the technology. Google will likely have a place in the automotive industry in the future, but we certainly will not rely on these companies to develop technologies for us. As for Apple, there is an investment in CarPlay, which is relevant and important, but when it comes to the autonomous side, they haven't made any announcements. Overall, I view Google and Apple as helping to accelerate the industry. So in that case, they are both enablers and disruptors to some extent, because they do add speed to the development cycle. For car companies, they can help to accelerate the development of some technologies.
Are cars progressively becoming more like smartphones rather than a means of transportation?
No, because the car is another device among many smart devices that exist. I don't think you will use your phone as the only operating system or the brain of the vehicle because the car is too powerful and capable on its own to have to rely on a smartphone to drive it completely. They need to complement each other. A lot of this data is going to reside on the cloud anyway. The data that I bring into the car should be able to change the vehicle's settings in real time.
Could you provide more details?
Whether you go from one Nissan or Renault car to another, it should be able to recognize your favorite settings, how you drive, where you drive, what stops you make, your calendar. The navigation system should be able to predict what you are going to do. Voice recognition is also getting much better. I think we are getting to the phase where you are going to really have meaningful interaction with your vehicle.
Where will Renault-Nissan roll out advanced connectivity solutions first?
Rather than launching certain connectivity services in entire countries, we will likely look at sample markets, such as densely populated cities like Singapore and New York, which are two completely different markets, but they have similarities. Or we might test services in Kansas City, Missouri, and a city with similar demographics in France.