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JAPAN: Ghosn clarifies Nissan's autonomous cars timetable

By Dave Leggett | 17 July 2014

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn wants both Alliance companies to be at the forefront of the introduction of autonomous drive technologies to the market

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn wants both Alliance companies to be at the forefront of the introduction of autonomous drive technologies to the market

After suggesting last year that Nissan would be in a position to offer fully autonomous cars to the market by 2020, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has offered further clarification on Nissan's planned rollout of autonomous drive technologies.

In a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Ghosn said that a traffic-jam assist pilot and automated parking are coming soon, with autonomous highway lane management and "intersection-autonomy" after that.

"By the end of 2016, Nissan will make available the next two technologies under its autonomous drive strategy," said Ghosn. "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."

"This will be followed in 2018 by the introduction of multiple-lane controls, allowing cars to autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes. And before the end of the decade, we will introduce intersection-autonomy, enabling vehicles to negotiate city cross-roads without driver intervention."

Ghosn stressed in his speech that Nissan is positioning itself to succeed as major global socio-economic changes, such as the rise of megacities, shape the future of the transportation sector and the automotive industry.

"In pursuit of those goals, Nissan must seize the growth opportunities created by major socio-economic trends affecting the world's car industry," added Ghosn.

He predicted that four major trends would drive demand for Autonomous Drive technologies, more zero-emission vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf.

"The first is the rise of global mega-cities, which is increasing the need for innovations to ease congestion, reducing emissions and improve traffic management," said Ghosn. "Second, demand is growing for in-car communications that meet or exceed the high expectations of the digital generation. Our vehicles must be as connected as the smartphones and tablets that this generation depends upon day in and day out.

"Third, there is the need to bridge the generation gap by providing vehicles that appeal to the world's growing population of seniors. These consumers want technologies and automated systems that enable them to drive safely, for longer.

"Finally, the fourth megatrend is the pressing need to embrace gender diversity. This means recognising the vital role that women play as consumer-purchasers, decision-makers and managers throughout the car industry."

In a wide-ranging speech on new technology and changing market demographics, Ghosn said that the company expected more than 1.5m Nissan vehicles to be connected to enhanced communications by next year, utilising cloud-based systems to offer better access to social media, entertainment apps and voice recognition software among other services.

He predicted such services and greater vehicle automation would become more important amid the growth of megacities of more than 10m people, with increasing road-use and need to cut both congestion and emissions. Among such road users, he cited demands from younger motorists for better in-car connectivity, the need to offer more automation for the senior generation and to make vehicle design, marketing and performance more attuned to women, who account for a large proportion of new car purchases.

"Nissan will be part of the transport solution in the growing number of megacities. We will continue to make our cars more connected. We plan to lead in delivering Autonomous Drive vehicles. And, in every part of the business, we are recognising the unique needs of elderly drivers and the impact and influence of female customers."