Google and the Renault Group are expanding their four-year-old partnership to include the development of an advanced software platform for future vehicles. This “software-defined vehicle” will be built on Google’s Android Automotive operating system and send data to the company’s cloud servers for processing, the companies announced.

In 2018, Renault struck a deal with Google as part of a broader partnership between the tech giant and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, which collectively is one of the largest auto groups in the world. As part of the deal, the Alliance announced that it would adopt Google’s native car operating system, which offers built-in Assistant, Maps, and Play Store. 

Renault says it is appointing Google as its “preferred cloud provider”

Today’s announcement, though, is just between Google and Renault. As such, it only applies to the French automaker’s four brands, Renault, Dacia, Alpine, and Mobilize. Renault says it is appointing Google as its “preferred cloud provider.” (Other automakers have gone with Amazon Web Services.)

That first deal was just about putting Android in millions of new vehicles. Today’s announcement is a little more complex. Google and Renault say they will work together to create a “Digital Twin,” or a virtual carbon copy of a vehicle that features advanced artificial intelligence capabilities “for an easier and continuous integration of new services into the vehicle and the creation of new onboard (In-Car Services) and offboard applications,” the companies announced.

Google and Renault claim that collaborating on software and testing out new AI capabilities in a virtual simulation will help improve the vehicle’s operations through improved, real-time diagnostics. The car will tell the driver when it’s in need of maintenance or even rectify the problem itself. In addition, vehicle owners will get to create a personalized experience that includes driving behavior, frequently visited destinations, and EV charging locations. And insurance models can be built using real data from the car itself.

Other automakers are also developing software-defined vehicles as they rush to compete with Tesla, which has come to define what customers expect from their vehicle’s software. The idea is that a vehicle is sold with a base level of hardware and that its features are largely dictated by its software, which can be updated and improved with over-the-air updates.

Google has been trying to get into the car space for over a decade, but its efforts have somewhat been stymied by automakers worried about competition. But the company has been increasingly successful in getting major car companies to bend to its will, including Ford, GM, Volvo, Honda, and BMW.

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