The future is now, according to Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn, who overnight outlined the timeline for the implementation of the company's autonomous driving systems.
The rollout of "automation technologies" that the Japanese company says are "aimed at accelerating consumer adoption of Autonomous Drive systems" including automated lane control systems and traffic jam systems will be introduced over the coming four years.
"By the end of 2016, Nissan will make available the next two technologies under its autonomous drive strategy," Ghosn said in a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "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."
Further to those two new systems, Ghosn suggested additional autonomous driving systems that will extend the abilities of the car will debut in the two years following.
"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."
Nissan claims its automated driving systems are "designed to enhance road safety and driving conditions by automating everyday tasks for motorists. Unlike pilot-projects for completely self-driving vehicles, currently undergoing preliminary tests elsewhere in the industry, drivers remain in control and `at the wheel' in Nissan models equipped with Autonomous Drive functions".
Ghosn insisted that EVs - such as the Nissan Leaf - will be a big part of the automotive landscape in the coming years, suggesting that zero-emissions vehicles with improved in-car connectivity will be crucial for the brand. Ghosn said there are four reasons for this.
"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," he said. "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 mega-trend is the pressing need to embrace gender diversity. This means recognizing the vital role that women play as consumer-purchasers, decision-makers and managers throughout the car industry."
Ghosn said Nissan will focus on cloud-based systems for its in-car communications networks, with "more than 1.5 million Nissan vehicles to be connected to enhanced communications by next year", with access to social media, apps and voice recognition.
Nissan isn't alone in pushing for autonomous vehicles. Search engine giant Google - which recently appointed former Ford chief Alan Mulally - is running a pilot program for its autonomous cars.
Other makers already offer some semi-autonomous functions. Mercedes-Benz has a cruise control system that can steer the car, as does Honda. As with a range of models, the locally-made Holden Commodore features an automated parking system to help ease the burden of reverse-parallel parks.