Renault, Nissan buy French tech firm to develop mobility apps

September 20, 2016 3:58 AM EDT

File photo shows workers who check a car at Renault's assembly plant in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, February 1, 2016. REUTERS/Darley Shen/File photo

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PARIS/TOKYO (Reuters) - Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> announced on Tuesday they would buy French software development company Sylpheo as they compete with global automakers and tech firms to develop new services including ride hailing and car sharing.

The French and Japanese automakers said that the acquisition, under which they would absorb Sylpheo's 40 engineers and consultants, would boost their software development and cloud engineering expertise.

"The Sylpheo team of software developers and cloud engineers joining the Alliance will have a unique opportunity to work on our next generation of connected cars and other advanced technologies," said Ogi Redzic, Renault-Nissan's senior vice president of Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services.

"They will be playing a critical role in this new era of tremendous change for the global auto industry."

Automakers from Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> to General Motors (NYSE: GM) have been investing in software firms and mobility start-ups to position themselves for the rise of autonomous driving, ride-sharing and other connected services which threaten the traditional vehicle ownership model that has dominated the past century.

Sylpheo will develop the applications for the alliance's connected car service platform, a Renault spokeswoman said. She said the acquisition was part of the alliance's recruitment push to hire 300 technology experts to better compete in the fast-growing mobility services sector.

These services will be integrated with autonomous driving technologies. In July, Nissan launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions in one of its Japanese minivan models which enables the vehicle to drive on single lane motorways and navigate congestion.

The two companies plan to launch more than 10 vehicles with autonomous drive technology by 2020. Nissan is aiming to develop autonomous multiple-lane driving functions, including lane changes, by 2018, and functions for full urban driving, including intersection turns, by 2020.

(Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva in Paris and Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo; editing by Richard Lough and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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