When walking around the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) even the last doubter gets the impression that fully connected autonomous vehicles will soon become part of everyday life on the streets. Development is picking up speed. Concept studies show futuristic cockpits under glass, steering wheels pull back into the dashboard. So-called hard keys, i.e. physical switches, are a thing of the past. It is operated by voice or gesture. In the future, a look at the symbol on the display will be enough.
The aim is not only to make driving much more comfortable, but also safer. "Over 90 percent of all accidents happen through human error," says Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn. Autonomous vehicles should help to massively reduce these numbers.
But until then it is still a long way. Nissan sees one of the greatest challenges in the transition period when autonomous cars still share the road with millions of conventional vehicles. The Japanese carmaker developed SAM for this. The abbreviation stands for Seamless Autonomous Mobility, for seamless autonomous mobility. SAM is supposed to combine artificial intelligence with human support while driving. According to Nissan, this interaction between man and machine can be used to control unpredictable situations. The computer learns like a learner driver. Artificial intelligence is considered a key technology for piloted driving in the industry.
The highest demands on autonomy exist in the city, where not only cars, but also pedestrians and cyclists cross paths. "People show social behavior, sometimes solve a traffic situation by eye contact or gestures, autonomous vehicles have to do this too," says Melissa Cefkin, responsible for the interface between auto and human at Nissan. Country-specific differences and culturally anchored behaviors must also be taught to the autonomous car. "Just think of a zebra crossing in Asia, where pedestrians are rarely granted privileges," says Cefkin.
Carlos Ghosn not only sees a great future for autonomous cars in terms of safety and comfort, but also believes that they will make driving more fun. Even for die-hard self-drivers. “Drivers can use their time far better in a piloted vehicle, for example in stop & go traffic, than sitting stupidly behind the steering wheel and staring at the road. Today I have to have my hands on the steering wheel even in a traffic jam, in future I can choose, ”said Ghosn,
In 2030, in his opinion, 15 percent of all new cars will be fully autonomous. Nissan wants to manage the development there in four phases. This year, the Qashqai will be the first model in Europe to receive the ProPilot. The system enables independent single-lane traffic management on the motorway. Nissan has gained experience with this in Japan. There ProPilto stands for the family Van Serena in the price list. "The order rate is 60 percent," says Ghosn.
In 2018, the ProPilot system should also be able to operate in multiple lanes (independent overtaking maneuvers), as is already the case in the Mercedes E-Class and the five-seater BMW. For 2020, Nissan believes that it has ten models in its range to the extent that they can also drive in the city in a partially autonomous manner. A few years later, you even want to have driverless cars on the road. “The time frame mentioned is about cars for the mass market and not just a few prototypes or test vehicles,” says the Nissan boss close."
They also want to significantly expand the range of battery-electric vehicles. With the Leaf, Nissan is already the industry leader here. Since its launch in 2010, more than 250.000 units have been sold worldwide, more than any other electric car. At the end of 2017, probably at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the new generation of the Leaf is to be presented. The market launch will then be in 2018. Leaf number two will also receive the ProPilot system and will then be the first electric car in its class to be able to drive semi-autonomously on the highway. (Michael Specht / SP-X)