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Renault and other carmakers need embedded software to develop autonomous vehicles (Photo: Renault)

Renault plans to acquire a French R&D division from Intel, giving the French carmaker deeper expertise in key digital technologies.

The R&D unit specializes in embedded software, which is important for the development of connected and autonomous cars. Renault said the acquisition, set to be finalized this year, will bring more than 400 software experts to the company.

The French carmaker cited in particular the unit's expertise in personalized services and remote, autonomous, realtime updates.

“This acquisition is right in line with Groupe Renault’s strategy of offering new connected services and improving the experience of its customers," Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a statement. "The Intel employees joining Renault hold highly relevant skills in what is a strong competitive technical field."

Like the rest of the auto industry, Renault and its alliance partner Nissan have focused heavily in the past two years on developing new connected technologies that are expected to define tomorrow's cars.

The alliance, in 2016, hired former Nokia executive Ogi Redzic to take charge of the carmaker's connected vehicles and mobility services strategy. Since he joined the car alliance, Redzic has been building up in-house software expertise.

The acquisition of the Intel unit gives Renault access to software expertise, but it may also help it keep costs under control. The company noted that cars will have more and more electronic and software content and it projected that the costs of these systems may rise to 50 percent of the cost of an average vehicle by 2020 from 35 percent in 2015.

The transaction doesn't mean Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, is losing interest in the car industry. The California-based company has recently stepped up its automotive activities, focusing on autonomous-driving technologies.

Earlier this month, Intel opened a Silicon Valley innovation center for autonomous driving. And in March, it signed a definitive agreement to acquire sensor specialist Mobileye. Sensors are an important source of data future cars will need to drive autonomously.

-By Arjen Bongard