Renault and Nissan were among the first to make a song and dance of driverless vehicle technology, with alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn promising market-ready autonomous cars by 2020.
This week, Ghosn has doubled down on that promise, confirming plans to have 10 models available across the Renault and Nissan brands equipped with autonomous drive technology.
The plan kicks off this year with ‘single-lane control’ - essentially an advanced cruise control that includes automated acceleration, braking and lane-keeping in moving and stop-and-go traffic.
The technology’s capabilities will expand in 2018 to include ‘multiple-lane control’, allowing the vehicle to change lanes and negotiate hazards as needed, without driver intervention.
By 2020, owners will have the technical freedom to go hands-off more often with 'intersection autonomy', capable of navigating crossings and heavy urban traffic, again without intervention.
“Renault-Nissan Alliance is deeply committed to the twin goals of ‘zero emissions and zero fatalities,’” Renault-Nissan Alliance chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn said.
“That’s why we are developing autonomous driving and connectivity for mass-market, mainstream vehicles on three continents [Japan, Europe and the US].”
Ghosn has cleverly steered clear of promising fully-autonomous driving, however: although he has said a number of times that the alliance could have self-driving cars on the road by 2020, he has also acknowledged that the necessary legislation and infrastructure is unlikely to be in place that quickly.
Instead, buyers can likely expect to see a range of vehicles pre-equipped with the necessary technology for fully-autonomous driving, but with access limited to semi- and highly-autonomous levels of driving on specifically approved sections of road.
But, as legislation catches up with capability, more advanced features could then be unlocked in a fashion similar to that used when Tesla made its AutoPilot system available to existing owners of suitably equipped Model S cars through an over-the-air software update.