Renault-Nissan, First in Autonomous Technology

Ghosn at the Qashqai launch. Does everything at Nissan have to be unpronounceable? Columnist, MAC, examines Renault-Nissan's a...

Ghosn at the Qashqai launch. Does everything at Nissan have to be unpronounceable?

Columnist, MAC, examines Renault-Nissan's autonomous vehicle, but isn't exactly keen on the technology for himself.

Is life mimicking art?

It may seem like just a few years ago when futuristic films coming out of Hollywood featured some form of driverless car; films like ‘I, Robot’ starring Will Smith springs to mind. If you believe that life mimics art, then in just a few years, we should all be piloting cars that drive themselves. Well, the cars are here and Renault-Nissan is the first to showcase the technology in a format that you actually believe can be used by the average Joe on the street.

Nissan carried out the second of 2 much publicised street tests of the new, fully autonomous vehicle on public roads in the suburbs of Tokyo this week, with the local prefecture Governor, Yuji Kuroiwa, and Nissan Vice Chairman, Toshiyuki Shiga, as passengers. The vehicle is based on the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle and is the first vehicle in Japan to be granted a license plate for public roads. The vehicle is equipped with an array of sensors and cameras that detect road conditions and automatically operates the car's main controls, including steering, braking and acceleration, and proved itself capable of negotiating busy streets and highways.

“I feel that we are very close to creating autonomous drive. We entered the highway, overtook slower cars and got off the highway, entirely in autonomous driving mode. Furthermore we entered the highway very slowly at 40kmh and the car accelerated up to 80kmh. Autonomous drive is becoming realistic now,” Toshiyuki Shiga said after the test.
The first test of the technology was carried out earlier in the month in downtown Tokyo and had the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, as one of the passengers. The video of the event shows a slightly nervous Nissan official with hands poised to clutch the steering wheel should anything go wrong.



Car manufacturers have been racing to stuff our cars with all sorts of technology for a while now. Japanese car companies have been focusing on autonomous technology and Nissan has adopted the Vision Zero philosophy, with the rather lofty ambition of at least reducing if not eradicating fatalities and injuries in Nissan vehicles by the year 2025. We shouldn’t be surprised then to learn that Nissan, along with Toyota and Honda, are all focusing a great deal of attention on vehicle-to-vehicle communication. By creating cars that drive themselves and talk to each other, the end of traffic accidents could be with us.

Some of the Nissan technology is already with us, in the form of the newly launched Qashqai. At the launch, Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Renault-Nissan, said that they will launch a totally autonomous car by 2020 and this technology can be a “huge advantage” for people with long commutes, allowing them to achieve greater productivity during the 2 hours per day that the average person spends in the car. Whilst Ghosn will be the first to admit that the Nissan Qashqai is NOT an autonomous car, he will also be quick to tell you that “there are plenty of small features that will be at the base of the autonomous driving to help you avoid an accident.”

For the likes of our guest writer, SUE (read about her ideal car technology), a car that drives itself seems to be a heaven-sent, but for diehard petrol heads like myself who love to let the back end step out…are you still with me?...then an autonomous car is just about as close to heresy as you can get. But here is a future conundrum - if you have consumed alcohol and levels are over the legal driving limit, then can you be arrested for DUI in an autonomous car when, technically, you were not driving? Hmm…

image: Nissan

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