Nissan Motor Co. will launch a car with self-driving technologies in Japan in 2016, the automaker’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, announced in New York.
“There will be a Nissan product in Japan, which will carry autonomous drive,” Ghosn said at a news conference Thursday on the sidelines of the second day of the New York International Auto Show. “Obviously when you have this kind of technology, you want also the Japanese market to enjoy it as soon as possible.”
Ghosn said the automaker, which has a five-year partnership with NASA to develop the emerging technology, set a time line of 2016 for when it will launch its first self-driving car. Japan is the first market where Nissan has indicated the car will be sold.
Nissan will first introduce self-driving features that allows the car to drive on highways and by 2020 the company wants the car to be able to navigate autonomously through complex city traffic.
“It’s going to happen step by step, because we need to make sure that the regulators in the different countries feel comfortable,” Ghosn said. “To persuade the regulators that you can take your hands off the wheel or your eyes from the road is going to take a lot of demonstration.”
Meanwhile, he said Nissan will continue its emphasis on “zero emission” technology, such as the Leaf electric car, which will get a new battery with a longer range. But Ghosn said the main obstacle in overcoming consumer anxiety over electric cars is to expand charging infrastructure.
“As long as you don’t have charging infrastructure, we’re not going to see a very strong development of the electric car,” Ghosn said. “We need the consumer to get confident and for this, the key area is going to be the infrastructure.”
Ghosn said he welcomes new entries into the electric car segment, and media reports that Apple Inc. is developing its own vehicle, because of the opportunities to develop infrastructure and reduce component costs.
“I consider anybody bringing electric cars as more an ally than a competitor, because today we have more opportunity into making the electric car mainstream,” Ghosn said, adding that he is “very curious” about how the tech giant could transform the segment.
While Nissan has set a goal of generating 10 percent of its annual sales volume from electric cars by 2020, Ghosn said all automakers will have to have their own approach to reducing carbon emissions as governments tighten regulations.
“If (emission regulations) change, in my opinion, it’s going to get tougher,” Ghosn said. “Every car company is going to have to have a strategy in zero emission.”