Nissan-Renault says open to partnerships to develop new car technologies

YOKOHAMA (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co Ltd 7201.T and Renault SA RENA.PA are open to partnerships with other companies to equip their vehicles with sophisticated technology as automakers race to develop the cars of the future, the pair's connected vehicles chief said.

A logo of Nissan Motor Co is seen on a steering wheel as a woman drives her car in Golfech, southwestern France, April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Global automakers are competing with industry rivals and technology firms to develop self-driving cars and mobility services such as car sharing as the growing use of technology and artificial intelligence may eventually diminish the role of drivers, threatening the traditional model of car ownership.

As software used in cars becomes more sophisticated and costly, there will be benefits of partnerships - including with rivals - to develop standardized technology such as mapping services, said Ogi Redzic, who heads the Nissan-Renault alliances’ Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services division.

“We are in the spirit of collaboration,” Redzic, who joined the alliance earlier this year after working for companies including Nokia and Motorola, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

“There are some other companies which would like to build everything in-house, but ... we are willing to partner when it makes sense.”

Nissan and Renault are developing a technology platform that will enable alliance vehicles, including those made by newest member Mitsubishi Motors Corp 7211.T, to access cloud-based services including infotainment, car maintenance and remote control operation.

The automakers have been increasing investment in that area, announcing a partnership last month with Microsoft Corp MSFT.O to develop connected car functions powered by Microsoft's Azure cloud storage service. The pair have also acquired French software developer Sylpheo.

Automakers have been scrambling to partner with tech firms to mitigate the risk that self-driving cars and car sharing will trim demand for car ownership decades down the line.

This year has seen a handful of automakers partnering car sharing service providers, including General Motors Co GM.N and Lyft Inc, Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T and Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], and Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE and Israel's Gett.

Redzic declined to comment on the alliance’s strategy for car sharing. Renault has a partnership with Bollore, under which it produces electric vehicles for the French car-sharing service and supplies ultra-compact cars.

Renault also supplies its ultra-compact Twizy to rental companies. Redzic said the alliance was open to offering more vehicles to car service providers, noting that fleet sales were “a very healthy part of our business”.

“I don’t know if we would say ‘No’ to someone who wants to operate a service using a subset of our vehicles,” he said.

“The question is whether we are going to operate a service on our own or if we’re going to work with a partner,” he said.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Christopher Cushing