EU automakers are officially giving up on tech
Google’s Android Automotive is now the official software layer of Renault vehicles. This is not an overnight breakthrough but was actually quite long in the making. But we are now there.
We want to make the car an intelligent object that learns and one that can be upgraded over the air like a mobile phone. - Luca de Meo, Renault CEO
... and as such, all data will transit to Google's cloud to be processed.
If data is the new oil, Renault doesn't seem to feel like it should be the one drilling. Not that Renault-Nissan is alone on this. The European automakers not working with Google are just banding with Amazon.
What to make of this?
First, this is not a Kodak moment as much as a reality check. After a decade of trying to figure this out, EU car companies end up admitting they're just that. Car companies. Not mobility companies. Not energy companies (like Tesla). And certainly not software companies. For all their strategic bravado and communication flexes, they are steadily becoming what they feared: Foxconn-like facilities with some legacy brand value. Should we be sad and despair, though? After all, companies are organisms that follow biological patterns. They grow, mature, and eventually die as they change externally, but they always obey their initial DNA. In this case, building engines with bodywork and four wheels.
Admitting that automakers like Renault are entering senescence is not an inherent problem. What might be, is that there are no newly-fangled challengers rapidly rising in Europe (and we would know by now). No one is even trying to be both a software and a hardware company for consumers' mobility. Beyond the automaker world, it gets worse as Europe broadly reckons we cannot have proper digital sovereignty, and the best-case scenario is letting U.S. tech giants deal with our digital infrastructure while hoping for the best.
Even more worrying? Renault, still the canary in the coal mine, is also partnering up with Geely to access efficient Chinese R&D and engineering for vehicle powertrains. The irony at this point is that Renault might not be able to survive as a Foxconn-like company. I'm only saying this because Foxconn itself is not waiting for anyone; they have started getting into the automotive market too...