In July, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosin offered some pithy suggestions regarding the “immature” emergence of self-drive vehicle concepts, and in the context of recent news regarding Google’s attempt to subvert California’s insurance laws to allow politicians an opportunity to serve as G-Pod “test drivers” even though they were unqualified for the experience, I thought his suggestions might be instructive.
“Self-driving cars remain a long way from commercial reality,” Ghosin said during a speech at the Foreign Correspondence Club of Japan. “They are suitable only for tightly controlled road environments, at slow speeds, and face a regulatory minefield,” he continued.
“That is why Nissan is focused on autonomous-drive technologies that we know will work, and can be introduced over the next four to five years…
I want to clarify that there is a big difference between autonomous drive technology championed by Nissan, and self-driving cars. Autonomous drive 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.”
It might be remembered that he saw self-drive as a five-year production trend earlier in the year, and when the Google self-driving car made a splash in the press at the end of May he was initially impressed with the concept and its technology. However, something changed between then and the July speech; more prudent thinking perhaps?
Instead, Nissan’s course will be drawn across waypoints between driver support and accessibility, while not wasting valuable development time on a technology that may or may not be a modern version of the mythical Unicorn.
“(Nissan’s) technological momentum will… offer more and more capability to assume journey-management from drivers, (and) is a sign of things to come. Cars like (our) new Qashqai (currently only sold in Europe), and the new X-Trail have advanced park-assist systems,” he said. “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.”
Finally, he offered a roadmap based on four central goals including:
- The need to ease congestion in increasingly crowded mega-cities
- A response to the growing demand for in-car communications by younger tech-savvy drivers
- The need to make car operation easier and safer for the growing ranks of senior drivers
- Increased purchasing and decision-making power of female consumers
In the end, however, note that there was no interest in self-drive as a consumer product-set, whether on the near or far horizon. Do you think that he may understand something that the wonks in Northern California don’t?