IF YOU think that soon we’ll be putting our feet up while our cars do the driving, the boss of Nissan has some good – and bad – news.
In a speech in Japan this week, Carlos Ghosn said that fully self-driving cars are still a very long way from being a commercial reality.
“They are suitable only for tightly controlled road environments, at slow speeds, and face a regulatory minefield,” he said.
Only last year, Ghosn had forecast Nissan would have fully autonomous cars on the market by 2020. Now he says the company is reining in its ambitions and instead, developing autonomous technologies piece by piece.
He said: “Autonomous driving is about relieving motorists of everyday tasks, particularly in congested or long-distance situations. The driver remains in control, at the wheel, of a car that is capable of doing more things automatically.”
Ghosn said that Nissan has a clutch of systems ready to roll out over the next four to five years.
First up, in 2016, will be a traffic-jam pilot, a system that allows the car to creep autonomously through dense traffic, braking as necessary. Around the same time, a fully automated self-parking system will be available across a wide range of vehicles.
“Today, the new Qashqai has advanced park-assist,” said Ghosn, “but by 2017 we expect parking to be fully automated and by 2019, increasingly remote so that cars can be parked in a controlled setting without a driver at the wheel.”
In 2018 multiple lane controls will arrive, allowing cars to autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes.
By the end of the decade, Nissan will introduce intersection-autonomy, enabling vehicles to negotiate city cross-roads without driver intervention.
Ghosn said four factors were driving the development of autonomous vehicle technology: the increase in the number of mega-cities of more than 10m people, a growing demand from young drivers for in-car connectivity, the need to offer older drivers more automation and to make vehicle design and performance more attuned to women drivers, who account for a large proportion of new car purchases.