Carlos GhosnEnlarge Photo
Google’s head offices in Mountain View, California has just got some new neighbors, but unlike most of the other companies in the fabled silicon valley it isn’t a fresh-faced venture-funded software or green tech startup firm. It’s an automaker.
Moving into offices just over the road from the Internet search engine giant, automotive partners Renault-Nissan plan to use Silicon Valley’s best brains to develop the latest software and hardware for the alliance’s range of all-electric and advanced technology vehicles.
“The Alliance is at the vanguard of the auto industry's shift to sustainable transportation,” said Carlos Ghosn, CEO and Chairman of both Nissan and Renault. “Having a footprint in one of the world’s headquarters for clean tech research will extend our lead further.”
Renault Twizy Z.E. electric vehicleEnlarge Photo
Among the list of cars the center will develop software for is Nissan’s all-electric Leaf, along with Renault’s Z.E. quartet of electric cars - the Fluence, Twizy, Zoe and Kangoo.
Focusing on graphical user-interface displays, in-car internet connectivity and smart-grid integration, the Silicon Valley research center will concentrate on the way in which drivers interact with their electric cars and how their electric cars will interact with the world.
At the heart of this system is Nissan’s Carwings system, which allows users to interact with their car remotely, checking state of charge, estimated miles range and even turning on climate control and charging remotely via a computer or a smart phone.
Nissan Leaf Carwings featureEnlarge Photo
Since its launch in December last year, over 7,500 2011 Nissan Leafs have entered private hands - but Nissan has already had to roll out an urgent software update after an unexpected error in the car’s computer system was leaving drivers stranded.
Although the Renault-Nissan alliance is working closer than ever before on electric and advanced fuel vehicles, there are no plans to merge the firms into a single brand. What you can expect however, is significant technology sharing to continue as is the case with the 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack found in both the 2011 Nissan leaf and 2012 Fluence Z.E.
While it makes sense to found a technical research center in Silicon Valley, don’t expect Renault or Nissan to be setting up a factory there any time soon, however. With expensive real estate and a lack of wider industry support, we won’t be seeing Californian-made Nissans or Renaults any time soon.