Renault Accurately Reads Consumer Demand, Builds Car That Writes Derivative Novels

What’s keeping electric cars from just taking over the entire automotive industry? Driving ranges that still generally lag behind combustion car ranges? A lack of quick and omnipresent charging stations? The inability of most electric cars to write stories in the style of Jack Kerouac? Renault thinks it’s the latter, and has decided to do something about it.

That something is a project calls Written By Zoe, where a slightly-enhanced Renault Zoe takes in data and context from a given drive and uses those details to craft a story of travel and discovery, based on the writing style of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

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To do this, first Renault (well, really, Renault’s ad agency) used IBM’s Watson API artificial intelligence system to evaluate On The Road and to generate a set of parameters with which to try and emulate Kerouac’s writing style.

Inside the car, a Raspberry Pi single-board computer is connected to the car’s CAN bus to get data about speed, accelleration, use of lights, wipers, etc. to help determine the pace and tone and context of the given drive. That data is combined with GPS data, weather information, and information about nearby places to help determine the tone, pace, and context of the story.

The story is generated using the Watson AI and the sensor data, and read aloud using Amazon’s Polly text-to-speech system—the same one Amazon’s Alexa uses. Also, a small thermal printer, sort of like a receipt printer, prints out a copy of the story right there in the car, so you can have a hard copy, I guess to keep in your wallet so you can produce it in case some asshole accuses you of not having a barely-coherent artificially-generated bit of prose on you that was made by a French electric car.

Finally, right? Once Renault confirms they’ll be building this system into all their future electric vehicles, I’ll be sure to run out and get one. Especially if they have a cartridge slot that lets me plug in the Hunter S. Thompson author Styl-Pak™, which comes with a handful of unidentified pills and some really potent-looking mushrooms.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)