Renault has taken its techno turn

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On the occasion of a Media Day, organized at the Technocentre in Guyancourt (Yvelines), Luca de Meo – the CEO of the group – and his close guard presented a first assessment of the revolution that began a year ago. In record time, Renault has become an agile company, multiplying partnerships to be on top of key technologies. To mark the difference with the Ghosn era, the executive committee has its offices above the design center. And exchanges are frequent to make quick decisions and “see the cars”. Even before the arrival of the boss of Italian origin, from Seat, Renault had already reviewed its operation and hired big names. First war, the director of engineering, Gilles Le Borgne, came to apply recipes that have worked well at PSA. He got to reduce costs and development times. It should be noted that engineers in France are focusing on technological building blocks (13 strategic areas have been identified). The group also recruited Luc Julia, a Franco-American AI expert who is one of the fathers of the famous vocal assistant Siri. d’Apple (300 million users worldwide). He is Scientific Chief Officer, clearly Mr. Techno. And to mark the importance given to this sector, the head of Renault Software Labs *, who is also vice-president for the Alliance of what is called the Software Factory, Thierry Cammal, was also present at this event. . He explained during this meeting that Renault had developed its skills internally precisely to develop new services and no longer leave the value to other players such as equipment manufacturers.

* Former Intel labs bought by Renault in 2017

The Mégane e-Tech: a concentrate of technology

Photo d'illustration

Photo d’illustrationCredit Photo – Laurent Meillaud

The best symbol of this transformation is the Mégane e-Tech. Admittedly, the project was launched before the arrival of the new team, but Luca de Meo and Gilles Le Borgne contributed. Beyond its performance in terms of autonomy and driving pleasure, the electric SUV plays the card of connectivity. It releases a multimedia system based on Android and which offers quite unique services. Thus, the Google Maps guidance system takes into account not only the battery life, but also the occupancy rate of the charging points (the database of the American giant contains 200,000 for Europe) to optimize the route and direct to the most suitable spot. And this dynamic real-time calculation goes even further: it allows the battery to be preconditioned in advance so that it is at the right temperature when charging. A priori, no one else does this and it reduces the time spent on the terminal. Equipped with a 4G chip, the system also offers Google, like YouTube Music. But Renault did not sign a blank check to the behemoth of Silicon Valley. The diamond brand has added extensions to optimize certain functions, with in-house software. This is the case, for example, for intelligent cruise control – based on mapping, speed signs and the chosen driving style). In addition, the 22 on-board computers of the Mégane e-Tech can potentially be updated remotely to update their codes (the firmware), in order to make them more reliable and provide new services. From the exit of the Clio 5, vehicles equipped with the Easylink system are already affected by “over the air” (OTA) updates. And that’s already a million units.

Software expertise

Photo d'illustration

Photo d’illustrationCredit Photo – Laurent Meillaud

As Thierry Cammal, the software lab manager, explains, “the desire is to capture the value linked to the software”. If the software has its place for more than 10 years under the hood for the management of motors, it now takes over all the other compartments including the passenger compartment, the cockpit, the chassis and of course the driving aids. In this area, the diamond has decided to internalize data fusion (the synthesis of information coming from several factors). The ambition is to develop new services that can be monetized. In addition, Renault has revised its electronic architecture to have a single brain (a high performance computer) which controls all the sensors, just like Tesla and what is preparing Volkswagen. And like its German rival, the French manufacturer is working on a home operating system. A Renault OS in short, but it will not arrive for two years a priori. Anyway, Renault is better armed than one might think in terms of “soft”. The group has 2,000 engineers in this field: a workforce that impressed Luc Julia when he arrived. The latter explains in passing that the expertise concerns several areas: design, but also production where software is also combined with artificial intelligence. However, Renault does not want – and cannot – do everything on its own. This is how the Software République project was born, with partners named Dassault Systèmes, Atos, Thales, STMicroelectronics and Orange. The idea is to use their skills to develop new services. In a few months, Renault will present some projects from this team of 100 people. The structure also houses an incubator which recently organized a Mobility Challenge and distinguished three first start-ups (Wattpark, Geoflex and Vianova which work respectively in electric charging, ultra-precise positioning and algorithms for road safety).

A fireworks display in perspective?

Photo d'illustration

Photo d’illustrationCredit Photo – Laurent Meillaud

As announcements multiply, such as the recent agreement between Amazon and Stellantis, Renault does not feel that it is late. He already has cloud deals with Microsoft and Google. It has also extended its partnership with Qualcomm, one of the benchmarks in smart chips. Already selected for the Mégane e-Tech, the American will provide future models of connectivity (5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, exchanges in V2X mode with the outside), more precise positioning, more extensive interaction with the outside world. level of the man-machine interface, a Car2Cloud service platform and management of the levels of driving assistance with its SnapDragon “Digital Chassis” solution. Ready to welcome partners depending on the opportunities, the Renault group also considers itself to be in the top 3 in terms of engineering with renewed efficiency. While the workforce has decreased, France is the country where software is developed (at the Technocentre, Toulouse and Sophia-Antipolis). And the manufacturer is recruiting cutting-edge experts in cybersecurity, systems and even automation. He also manages to retrain former specialists in Diesel, which have been assigned, for example, to power electronics. After a period of resurrection, the group is launching the first products as part of its Renaulution. They will arrive on time and with cutting edge technology. And according to Gilles Le Borgne, it will be “a real fireworks display”.

to summarize

The diamond group, which launched its Renaulution a year ago, performed a real tour de force. He has put his organization back in order and is bursting with creativity for its future products. Software will be at the heart of this transformation.

Laurent Meillaud

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