Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rides in an Autonomous Drive Nissan Leaf (November 9, 2013)Enlarge Photo
During a speech in Yokohama, Japan, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has revealed more details about the company's upcoming line of autonomous cars. Will the company be a leader in the field of self-driving cars, much as its Leaf has been at the forefront of mass-market electric vehicles? Or will other automakers like Toyota and Volvo beat Nissan to the punch?
Based on Ghosn's statements, it seems like Nissan may be neck-and-neck with its most aggressive competitors -- possibly a bit ahead of them.
As we've expected for some time, the plans of Nissan and other automakers involve rolling out autonomous features over the next several years as a way of proving their effectiveness to consumers. Nissan calls its particular suite of self-driving features "Autonomous Drive".
The company has already developed a number of systems for Autonomous Drive -- systems that can also be found on cars from other automakers, like lane assist, collision warning, and brake assist. The next two features will arrive during the 2016 calendar year:
"We are bringing to market a traffic-jam pilot, a technology enabling cars to drive autonomously – and safely – on congested highways. In the same timeframe, we will make fully-automated parking systems available across a wide range of vehicles."
By 2018, the company plans to introduce a feature that can maneuver on multi-lane highways under complicated conditions, avoiding other cars and changing lanes without driver input. Within the following two years, Nissan will add a feature that will allow cars to move through intersections of various kinds on their own. And, right on schedule, the full Autonomous Drive package should be available to consumers by 2020.
Ghosn is very optimistic about the success of Autonomous Drive and how attractive it will be to the public. He sees it as feeding into four major trends affecting consumers and the planet as a whole:
1. Our increasingly urbanized society, which will fuel a demand for better traffic management tools like autonomous, connected cars.
2. The "internet of everything" and consumers' desire to remain connected to friends, family, co-workers, and many inanimate objects 24/7, even while driving.
3. A growing number of elderly drivers, who want to remain independent and maintain the ability to get from place to place on their own.
4. The increasingly powerful role that women play in the auto field -- not just as industry workers, but also as consumers and decision-makers. (Ghosn didn't fully elaborate on how this might fuel autonomous vehicle adoption specifically, only that women should figure more centrally in the process of designing and selling vehicles.)
Is Ghosn right? Are you more excited about/interested in autonomous cars than you were a year ago? Five years ago? Sound off in the comments below.