Renault ZOE writes On the Road fanfic, becomes first AI hipster

An all-electric Renault ZOE is writing fan fiction based on Jack Kerouac‘s novel “On the Road” to demonstrate how far modern EVs can travel on a charge. It’s also a celebration of the novel’s sixtieth anniversary in 2017. Also, presumably, this will impress ZOE’s latest crush, who loves Beat literature.

The car uses live driving data and artificial intelligence to generate fan fiction authorized by the Kerouac estate in the style of the famous novel. The AI takes information from internal and external sensors as the car drives through Stockholm and turns it into “contextual storylines,” according to the press release. These stories are unique to each driver, depending on what inputs occur during the drives.

The first step was to analyze the book using the Watson API. The analysis looked for language usage, emotions and social cues in the text. This is the basis for ZOE’s “in the style of” fanfic.

The ZOE has a Raspberry Pi on board with a data collecting scanner, 4G modem and GPS, plus the usual array of sensors in a modern vehicle. A bunch of data is collected from the sensors and the scanner, including speed, acceleration, braking, weather, nearby places and geopositioning.

The ZOE puts all those data points together to generate a Kerouac-style story on the fly based on conditions. It uses the same text-to-speed technology as the Amazon Alexa to read the results out loud in real time during the drive. Back at the project’s HQ, the driver receives a thermal-printed version of the story.

The goal of the project, according to Renault, is to ease consumers’ range anxiety by showing that an electric vehicle like the Renault ZOE can travel 400 km (about 250 miles) on one charge and write a freakin’ novel in the process. I’m not sure how convincing that will be to potential EV buyers, but it’s on the clever side of quirky.