One of the brands Ghosn oversees, Nissan, unveiled a new concept called the IDS, which could be a hint at what to expect from the next-generation Leaf. It’s an electric car with autonomous driving technology, and one that is also intrinsically connected to the internet.
The IDS concept features Nissan’s Intelligent Driving system comprising five radar sensors, 12 cameras, four laser scanners and a number of ultrasonic sensors to give the vehicle’s computers a 360-degree view of its surroundings. According to the Japanese company, all of these features work together to assist in making quick decisions on the road.
That should theoretically make the car safer, and Ghosn has stated that it is part of the push towards zero fatalities that the Alliance is invested in.
But according to Ghosn, there’s more to it than just safety. Convenience is a key factor, too.
“The basic thing is first making driving safer, but also making the time in the car more productive and more fun,” he said.
“People on average drive two hours a day. For two hours they are in the car. Now they do nothing – hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. That’s it. They listen to the radio and maybe they talk on the phone.
“But if we can take back some of this time, where you can be hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, sending email, seeing a movie, teaching your kids in the car, or consulting with a doctor, it becomes productive. This is very important – it becomes pleasant and productive. That’s the objective,” he said.
When asked what the car of 2020 looks like in his mind, Ghosn suggested that the features of the IDS and the quirky Teatro for Dayz concept (a Japan-focused kei car with integrated screens in the dashboard and LED displays on the bumpers) are key to the future of the brand’s cars.
“I think what I have in mind is an electric car, totally connected – that means you’re going to be able to have videoconferencing, email, telephone, music – everything you can do with an iPhone you should be able to do with a car,” he said.
“With autonomous driving, in the sense that when you want to drive you drive, but when you don’t want to drive you switch and the car drives for you. That’s it.
“It’s a kind of place that is going to be very personal, because it’s connected; you’re going to have your email, photos, music, the movies that you want. It’s your space, but it’s a mobile space.
“That's exactly what people are asking for. They want to be able, when they are in their car, to be like they are at home. Accessing everything they want, in a personal space, and to be doing it in a way which is safe and reliable,” he said.
It is fair to state that some established car makers are seemingly somewhat slow to react to new technologies, where start-up brands such as Tesla are more nimble in implementing tech. They even offer software updates over Wi-Fi.
And the car industry is sitting up and taking notice of the progress that new brands can make when they have vehicles built to suit specific needs. Then there are technology brands such as Google and Apple, both of which are looking in to the automotive space because consumers presumably know and trust those brands.
Ghosn made it clear that automotive experts will still have more ability to push the boundaries, and more expertise in the field to make sure the vehicles can compete with newcomers.
“A lot of people say: ‘You know what? The tech companies are going to come and they’re going to [develop cars like that first],” he said. “The cars still have to be safe. The cars still have to be fun to drive. The car still has to have a lot of the basic features which are making the competition between car makers out there sound easy.
“On top of that it has to be connected, it has to be autonomous, and it has to be low emissions,” he said. “So it’s going to become more and more sophisticated, and that’s why I think that only the people who make the investments and have the very deep knowhow about the car industry are going to be able to compete.”