The Renault-Nissan alliance is a rare example of cross-cultural co-operation in a global industry. Strategic partners since 1999, the two have nearly 450,000 employees working across eight major car brands including Infiniti, Dacia, Datsun and Lada.
Hot Topics caught up with the Alliance Global VP and CIO, Celso Guiotoko, to discuss what lies ahead for the automotive giant, including the development of the Nissan autonomous vehicle based on the Leaf electric car and the effect Nissan autonomous vehicles and the data they will generate are set have on consumer trust and privacy.
HT: With the IoT about to be rolled out, as well as driverless cars just around the corner this must pose issues in terms of customer data and potential hacks. What are you doing to safeguard against potential problems?
CG: Firstly we tend not to say driverless cars, as we are more likely to roll out autonomous cars before that will be the case. However, given that these vehicles are going to be connected to networks, we work on them in much the same way as we do our other systems.
This is the way the group is looking at it. Everything inside the Nissan autonomous vehicle is the responsibility of IT. Everything outside of the vehicle is now the responsibility of IT too. So anything on the vehicle that is sending data to the cloud, be it from apps or web pages, is something that the IT department is jointly collaborating on with the engineering team.
We took this approach because having siloed teams doesn’t make sense. Especially when you have to go through everything at the end to test various different components.
HT: A video emerged recently of an autonomous vehicle being targeted by hackers. Do you see attacks of this nature as being a big problem?
CG: Definitely and we have been paying a lot of attention to this in terms of how we are going to ensure that connected vehicles are going to remain secure.
Just as we are discussing this now, some of our teams are getting together to talk about what the guidelines are, and what the level of security required will be, to implement autonomous cars or even driverless cars in the future.
We have to look ahead and meticulously create very clear guidelines in terms of how we’re going to secure the connection, the vehicles and how we are going to make sure that only drivers and customers will have access to the Nissan autonomous vehicle.
HT: This must mean consumer trust is an important talking point among car manufacturers worldwide. It seems like it will be the next great battleground for corporate businesses. Do you see it as an opportunity?
CG: Yes definitely but consumer trust and trust building isn’t specifically the task of one team. It has to be at the back of everyone’s mind across all teams and we are unifying our efforts to help build the trust required for the industry as a whole in order to help consumers adopt new technologies going forwards.
HT: Are there any steps in particular you are taking to help build consumer trust?
CG: I think the most important thing for us right now is focusing on the Nissan autonomous vehicle that will be released. Everything we design is two years away from being released to market. This gives us a lot of time to smooth out any issues, be it from potential hackers or other means.
Building consumer trust is going to be a long road, particularly in ensuring customers data and privacy is secure. It will begin with the experience of the connected vehicle.
HT: Another opportunity with the dawn of autonomous vehicles is the huge amount of data that can be gathered from customers. What opportunities do you see that come with that?
CG: This is, we believe, the right direction to be heading in. It is not yet clear what exactly our business model will be and how we are set to monetize, collect data at scale and use this all to increase the turnover of the company. But we are very aware that this is what we have to do, especially as so many high growth tech companies are doing the same and have been for a very long time.
We need to ensure that we prepare ourselves accordingly and that all the right pieces are in place. This is not something to be done over a short period of time but it is the reality we face.