The Alliance Renault-Nissan has announced today it will launch more than 10 vehicles with autonomous capabilities until 2020. The cars will be released in the USA, China, Japan and Europe. If you believe they will be reserved for expensive cars, think again. The companies say the technology will be offered in “mass-market cars”, at “affordable prices”.
Part of this effort can be seen on the IDS Concept, presented at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show and deemed as a possible successor for the Nissan Leaf. The IDS is an autonomous vehicle with a 60 kWh battery made of carbon fiber, extremely low for a four-seater (only 1.38 m) and equipped with V2V (vehicle to vehicle) technology and also able to communicate with pedestrians, for example. Have a look at the video below.
Part of this effort to bring autonomous driving capabilities to market is a way to reduce people getting hurt or killed in car accidents. According to the Alliance, fatal or serious injuries in Nissan vehicles have fallen 60% in 20 years in Japan, while the same sort of problem has been reduced 80% in Renault cars used in France. The companies credit human misjudgment as the cause of 90% of all fatalities, but that is a questionable number. Bad road conditions and car defects, subject to recalls, are also to blame.
For this year, the Alliance promises to debut vehicles with “single-lane control”. In other words, it makes cars able to control themselves in a highway or in heavy traffic, for example. For 2018, the cars produced by both companies will feature the “multiple-lane control”, which will be able to evaluate possible dangers while changing lanes. At last, some cars sold in 2020 will have “intersection autonomy”, for dealing with city intersections and “heavy urban traffic without driver intervention”. Even at this point there will be no totally autonomous vehicle. deciding whether to go autonomous or not will be always a driver’s call.
As a sort of support for the vehicles technologies, the Alliance will release an automotive application for mobile devices that will allow the drivers to interact with their cars. It is scheduled for 2016. Next year, a new “Alliance Multimedia System” will start to equip the cars. It will have new multimedia and navigation features that the companies do not detail, but that we believe to bring some sort of V2V interaction, something that is essential to autonomous driving. Finally, in 2018 we will see the Alliance Connectivity & Internet of Things platform support the new Virtual Personal Assistant feature, whatever that is. Possibly the integration of the car with home appliances, such as the air-conditioning system of the office or the house. It would be possible to activate it before getting to any of those places, for example.
The budget for research and development for the two companies is around US$ 5 billion. There will be plenty of money to reach the goal, if everything is not already arranged, a much more probable possibility. Not only because four years is a short term for the auto industry, but also because such huge companies tend only to announce what they are sure they are going to achieve.