Ghosn says Renault-Nissan will bring self-driving tech to mass-market cars
Renault and Nissan plan to offer more than 10 models with autonomous drive in the next four years, adding the technologies to mass-market vehicles as well as luxury cars, CEO Carlos Ghosn said.
The alliance partners will offer the technology in cars in the U.S., Europe, China and Japan, the companies said in a statement.
Ghosn declined to say how much Renault-Nissan’s new self-driving features will cost and didn’t identify which vehicles will be first to get them. But the initial group with the features will include mass-market cars as well and will be introduced just as fast in China as in the U.S. or Europe, he said.
He said they will be easier to introduce the technologies first in Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand because those customers are willing to pay more.
"This is not about replacing the driver," Ghosn, who is CEO of both companies, told reporters Thursday at the alliance’s Silicon Valley research center in Sunnyvale, California. “It’s about empowering the driver.”
Vehicles with self-driving technology will debut this year, Ghosn said. The cars will have a feature called "single-lane control" that allows them to drive autonomously on highways without switching lanes, including in heavy, stop-and-go traffic.
By 2018, the alliance will start selling vehicles with "multiple-lane control," meaning they can autonomously change lanes on highways and navigate heavy traffic. By 2020, the cars will have "intersection autonomy," allowing them to navigate city intersections and heavy urban traffic without driver intervention.
Vehicles already enter a fully autonomous-driving mode when they activate anti-lock brakes during a skid, Ghosn said.
Automakers still need government permission to test self-driving cars. The rate of adoption of the technology will depend on how consumers and governments react, Ghosn said. "I need a regulator to accept that you guys can sit down and read a book while you're driving a car," he said.
Takao Asami, global vice president for research and advanced engineering for the alliance, said he expects regulators to become more accepting of the idea by about 2018. He predicted a step-by-step approach in which at first, for example, cars won’t be allowed to switch into fully autonomous driving during heavy traffic or snowstorms. The companies expect to solve these problems eventually, too, Asami said.
Ghosn said he’s not sure to what extent self-driving cars will fuel growth for ride-sharing services like Uber. Connecting cars to central databases and to each other will make them easier to share, he said. At the same time, having access to email, text, music and photos while driving will tend to make people view autonomous vehicles more as a highly personalized extensions of themselves, like a smartphone, Ghosn said.
In a study released on Monday, New York-based McKinsey & Co. predicted that by 2030, one in 10 cars may be fully self-driving, and one in seven could be purchased by ride-sharing services.
In another announcement, Renault-Nissan said it hired technology executive Ogi Redzic to lead its connected car efforts as senior vice president for connected vehicles and mobility services. Redzic, 45, most recently worked at mapping business Nokia HERE overseeing the automotive business group.
Renault-Nissan will also launch an app for mobile devices this year that allows users to interact remotely with their cars, such as by controlling music or the car's temperature.
Philip Nussel, Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report.