The alliance between automakers Groupe Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co Ltd is to launch more than 10 cars with self-driving technology over the next four years in the US, Europe, China and Japan, the partnership’s leader said on Thursday.
The alliance also said it hired technology executive Ogi Redzic to lead its connected car efforts as senior vice president for connected vehicles and mobility services. Redzic most recently worked at mapping business Here Maps BV overseeing the automotive business group.
Vehicles with self-driving technology are to debut this year, Renault CEO and Renault-Nissan alliance chairman Carlos Ghosn said.
The cars are to have a feature called “single-lane control” that allows them to drive autonomously on highways without switching lanes.
Renault-Nissan is also to launch an app for mobile devices this year that allows users to interact remotely with their cars, such as by controlling music or the car’s interior temperature.
By 2018, Ghosn said the alliance would start selling vehicles with “multiple-lane control,” meaning they would be able to autonomously change lanes on highways and navigate heavy traffic. By 2020, the alliance would have cars that can drive through city intersections and heavy city traffic on their own.
Ghosn declined to say how much the alliance’s new self-driving features would cost and did not identify which vehicles would be first to get them. He said they would be easier to introduce first in Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand, because those customers are willing to pay more.
With the announcement, Ghosn is joining a parade of automakers and tech firms racing to be among the first to offer automated driving.
Tesla Motors Inc in October last year rolled out its AutoPilot suite that can drive on well-tended highways and change lanes without the driver taking the wheel.
General Motors Co is to offer its similar Super Cruise technology on the 2017 Cadillac CT6.
Google and Ford Motor Co are discussing working together on self-driving technologies, a person familiar with the talks said.
Ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc is investing in self-driving technologies, while smaller rival Lyft Inc is working with GM, a recent investor.
Potential benefits include reducing traffic accidents and congestion and allowing people to use the time in transit for activities other than driving. However, automakers still need government permission to test self-driving cars.
Alliance global vice president for research and advanced engineering Takao Asami said he expects regulators to become more accepting of the idea by about 2018.
Asami predicted a step-by-step approach in which at first, for example, fully autonomous driving would not be allowed during heavy traffic or snowstorms.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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