Japanese automaker Nissan has no intention of backing down on either its plans to sell electric vehicles or its push to be one of, if not the, first automaker to have a fully autonomous vehicle on the market, CEO Carlos Ghosn said during a Frankfurt Motor Show meeting with reporters.
Nissan was the first automaker to go mainstream with a pure battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, the Leaf. And it is pushing to have a fully autonomous vehicle in production by 2020, with a series of less advanced technologies coming out in “waves,” said Ghosn, over the next five years.
Autonomous technology “won’t come all of a sudden,” stressed the Brazilian-born executive. “We will have waves” of more and more capable systems starting next year.
Nissan’s first semi-autonomous version will be capable of operating hands-free on a well-market highway, but it will not, among other things, have the ability to changes lanes and pass. Those features will follow about two years later, Ghosn promised, adding that by 2020, Nissan will “have cars able, in a city or on a highway, to make much more complicated, autonomous moves.”
(New Nissan Gripz concept offers a hint of what’s coming with next-gen Juke. Click Here for more.)
Nissan is by no means the only maker laying out that phased-in strategy. Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and General Motors’ Cadillac brand, have similar timetables in place.
Ghosn is confident that both the necessary hardware and software are falling into place. If anything can disrupt the adoption of autonomous vehicle technology, he warned, it would come in the form of restrictive legislation and regulations.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been closely watching the development of autonomous vehicle systems, and Administrator Mark Rosekind has said he believes this could lead to a sharp drop in the number of roadway crashes, injuries and deaths. But with NHTSA leading a general crackdown on the industry’s handling of safety problems, it’s anyone’s guess whether the agency will try to slow down the adoption of autonomous technology.
Autonomous driving is a hot topic at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, a variety of manufacturers showing off new driver-assistance and self-driving systems. Battery-based vehicles also are making a splash. Both Audi and Porsche, for example, are showing off high-performance, long-range vehicles.
Nissan has been one of the biggest producers of pure battery-electric vehicles with its compact Leaf model. But it also has missed its own sales targets at a time when low fuel prices have led many potential buyers to opt for large and less fuel-efficeint SUVs and pickups.
Despite the double-digit decline in overall sales of “electrified” vehicles – a term that takes in hybrids, plug-ins and BEVs – Ghosn aid Nissan isn’t backing off. “We believe electric cars are absolutely part of the future,” he stressed.
Nissan earlier this month announced a 27% increase in range, to 107 miles per charge, for the 2016 Leaf with the purchase of a larger, optional battery pack. Meanwhiscle, Audi came to Frankfurt with the 310-mile e-tron Quattro concept. Sibling brand Porsche not only expects to get similar range, but to deliver supercar performance if it builds a version of the new Mission E concept.
(Audi electrified. Click Here to check out its 310-mile battery SUV.)
While added range “will help boost” interest in electric vehicles, Ghosn said that the better way to overcome “range anxiety,” and build EV demand would be to set up a nationwide charging infrastructure
“Unless you have a charging infrastructure, you are going to always have a problem,” he said.
Battery cars and autonomous vehicles are two of the “disrupters” Ghosn pointed to see. But other factors, such as car-sharing services could completely disrupt and transform the auto industry in the next few decades.
(Click Here for TheDetroitBureau.com’s complete Frankfurt Motor Show coverage.)