Renovo wants its electric supercar to be as personalized as your iPhone

When NVIDIA debuted its Drive CX platform and X1 mobile chipset at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, we were impressed by how it handled and displayed in-car data. But where are you going to find it? Tucked inside Renovo's $529,000 Coupe, of course. Within the span of three weeks leading up to the show, the outfit tricked out the EV supercar's chassis and harnessed the multitudes of raw data some 1,000 sensors provide to demo the graphics company's latest mobile tech. But just how deep does that silicon run? What are its implications? We asked Renovo's CEO Chris Heiser (above right) those questions and more, and you can find the answers after the break.

How deep does the Drive CX platform run in the Coupe?

We're generating a lot of data on the car. We have almost 1,000 sensors and 80 embedded computers in this vehicle constantly monitoring all aspects of the driving. What we've worked with NVIDIA is to take that data and bring it to the X1 platform and begin to display it visually so that the customers can see what the car is doing and interact with it in novel ways. We did this over the past three weeks, just showing how quickly we can take the NVIDIA tech and integrate it.

We're going to continue to develop it and add more functionality to it, but the story for us is that the car is changing; the types of data people are going to need to visualize and the cloud is changing. We need these incredibly powerful computing platforms to accomplish that and that's what we're demonstrating today both with our gauge cluster and our center console.

What information's available in the center console, and how do you prevent overwhelming the driver with too much data?

For us it's about choice: We want to create a lot of different modes in the car. If you're in a pure performance driving mode, maybe all you care about is the torque output and the speed of the car. We have a version of the gauge cluster that does that. Maybe you want to see more data; maybe you want to focus on navigation; maybe you want to focus on infotainment.

We're able to switch between those modes while the vehicle's driving, while the driver's in complete control. Our vision is the car should be as personalizable as your iPhone, as your tablet, as your set-top box. These vehicles, EVs, are easier to do that with. You can change the way the throttle responds, change the way the engine responds; you can change the way the car reacts to you through software.

The thing with tweaking your car's performance now is that it could fall under Digital Millennium Copyright Act territory. How is Renovo dealing with that?

"Our vision is the car should be as personalizable as your iPhone, as your tablet, as your set-top box."

From our point of view, we want to make the platform as open as possible. This is something we're working with our partners on (people like NVIDIA, the other tier-one OEMs we have building components for the car). Anyone that tells you they understand the actual answer to that question is not being totally truthful. The big challenge is you want to make it open, but at the same time you don't want to give away IP.

You also don't want to create reliability issues on the vehicle. There's a balance there; everyone is taking it differently. You look at someone like Tesla with OTA updates; they're being very, very aggressive. You look at other brands and they're being very, very conservative. We're going to be a brand that's similarly aggressive to Tesla. We think exchanging software over the air, opening up the platform, allowing people to write apps for it -- that's the future and that's the way it's going to go.

This interview has been edited and condensed

[Image credits: NVIDIA]