As part of an ambitious plan to deploy fully-autonomous cars within the next five years, French automaker Renault said on Wednesday that it purchased a 40 percent stake in a media company to entertain passengers in driverless vehicles.
The deal calls for Renault to buy the stake in Challenges Group, a publisher that puts out a weekly economic magazine and four science and history journals, according to a news release.
As part of the deal, Challenges will work on new content that’s specifically aimed at autonomous cars, which presumably would be integrated into a robotaxi service that is being planned for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. (Nissan itself is set to begin testing autonomous Leafs in Japan this coming March.)
Here’s how Renault described the deal:
Today, French and European commuters spend about two hours in their car every day. Claude Perdriel and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn share the same conviction, that with the development of the connected driverless vehicle, users will have more time to spend on other activities while in the car. Together, the Challenges Group and Groupe Renault have everything that is needed to create a “lab for testing innovation” to develop new editorial content and relevant technologies.
When going from place to place – whether alone or with family or friends – we listen, look, and pay attention the world around us. This is already true of travel in today’s cars, and will be even more true in the autonomous, and driverless car of tomorrow. Each person, in his or her own vehicle, will be able to select and access information and content from the media group which will be totally dedicated to the knowledge and information.
There’s a lot of mobility-like mumbo jumbo strewn throughout the statement, but the upshot is that Renault’s preemptively investing in a media company for a driverless car it doesn’t expect to have on the road for another five years. It’s a bold move!
Bloomberg’s story on the deal has a great line that captures just how much of a gamble it is (emphasis ours):
Manufacturers are spending record amounts on the transformation, with a still-uncertain payoff and lack of clarity which new business opportunity, like predictive maintenance or on-board entertainment, will take off.
The hurdles—regulations, public adoption, the technology itself actually working—are sky-high to clear, but Renault felt it’s worth the risk.
Carlos Ghosn, Renault’s chairman and CEO, said it’s a project that’s “totally in line with Groupe Renault’s strategy, which aims to offer new, high-quality connected services and to improve customer experience.”
It’s light on specifics as to what sort of—as Renault puts it—“new editorial content and relevant technologies” will be produced, but if I had to guess, it’ll be more along the lines of already-announced deals. That is, it’ll be a way to shove advertising down your throat while a robot car ferries you around town.