DETROIT—Consumers are not asking the auto industry to move into autonomous-drive cars, but manufacturers must take them there, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says.
“Consumers aren't asking for anything,” Ghosn acknowledged, but said: “The consumer will buy. We have to stimulate the consumer by giving them a lot of benefits.”
Speaking to reporters Sunday night on the eve of the Detroit auto show, Ghosn touched on a point that confronts the auto industry: Autonomous-drive technology is still strange and science-fiction-like to the general public.
Manufacturers are rapidly investing in advanced technologies that will allow drivers to ride through city traffic without steering or controlling their vehicles. Many auto makers say that in the next four to five years, they will have new technologies in showrooms that make vehicles safer drivers than their owners.
10 by '20
Last week in California, Ghosn vowed that the Renault-Nissan Alliance will have 10 autonomous-drive models on the market globally by 2020.
Ghosn says safety considerations will be a key to bringing customers to autonomous vehicles.
“These cars are going to be much safer,” Ghosn reasoned. “And what's the price you'd put into saving one fatality?”
Consumers also will be attracted to the technology's ability to keep older drivers behind the wheel, he says.
“Today, a lot of people stop driving because they cannot drive anymore,” Ghosn said. “This is a very important element for us, knowing that the planet is getting older. One of the biggest problems of older populations is that they lose their autonomy of transportation.”
He said the technology “will allow you to drive until you don't want to drive anymore. You will be able to drive, no matter what is your impairment. With this technology, you're going to be able to drive at 80 years old, 90 years old.”
Ghosn said autonomous-drive technologies also will translate into better vehicle fuel efficiency and help cities improve their traffic management.
Last week, while making a publicity visit to the Renault-Nissan Silicon Valley Research Center in Sunnyvale, Calif., Ghosn said Renault and Nissan will put 10 autonomous models on the market in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China over the next four years.
He said the technology will be “installed on mainstream, mass-market cars at affordable prices.”