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Car and Driver: Nissan Unimpressed with Tesla’s Autonomy Promises, Still Confident in China

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Elon Musk’s remarkable talent for generating publicity means that the Tesla boss doesn’t even need to be in Detroit for the auto show to be set the agenda here. More specifically, he’s been able to get other people to make headlines for him, with Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn responding to the Tesla boss’s claim his company will make a car capable of driving itself across the U.S. within 24 to 36 months.


“I understand there is a marketing war, a lot of announcements, that’s fair, everybody wants a piece of it,” Ghosn told journalists at Nissan’s pre-show reception on Sunday night, “but at the same time judge on what is on the market.” After stressing that he was not directly criticizing Musk, Ghosn went on to, well, pretty much criticize Musk, sticking to the claim he made last year that Nissan’s first autonomous car won’t be ready until 2020. The company made this statement when it unveiled the autonomous IDS EV concept (pictured above) last October.


“We know that we are advancing a lot, we have new sensors, new cameras, the technology is evolving a lot,” Ghosn said. “The problem is very complicated, what is an autonomous car? If it’s a question of being autonomous on one lane on a highway or maybe changing lanes then this is 2016, 2017—but if you’re talking about autonomous driving in a city, with crossroads or the car making decisions in complicated situations then frankly I don’t think it’s going to be ready before 2020. If you are talking about self-driving cars in Palo Alto, it’s not the same as on the [whole] planet.”



Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“When I say 2020, I’m saying mass marketing, not only in the United States but globally, with a minimum base of infrastructure.” He added, “What is very important is that we don’t want the consumer to be just able to buy the car, we want him to be able to drive it. If we have the technology but the regulator does not allow you to drive with your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road then this is technology that is very nice but which doesn’t give any advantage. The advantage of autonomous drive is a connected car that enables you to video conference or do something else.”


Ghosn also said he sees self-driving cars as ensuring continued mobility for those who can no longer drive themselves. “Today a lot of people stop driving because they cannot drive anymore,” he said, “this technology is going to enable you to drive until you don’t want to anymore. You will be able to drive no matter what your handicap, no matter what is your impairment. With this technology you’re going to be able to drive at 80 years old, 90 years old. This is important as the planet is getting older.”


Ghosn also told his audience that he was not concerned about the long-term prospects for carmakers from China’s stuttering economy. “I am fundamentally not worried about [China],” he said. “It depends on your timeframe. Am I worried about the next three weeks? Then yes—it is up and down and crazy. That is not our horizon though, our horizon is the next three years, the next five years, and then I’m not worried. Today in China you have on average 100 cars per 1000 residents, while this number is 800 for the United States, and in Europe around 500. No matter how you stretch it nobody believes that the Chinese are going to remain at 100 or even 200 per 1000 residents, knowing that Brazil is at 200, Russia is at 300, etc. So there is a fundamental growth coming in China, even today the Chinese car market increased last year by five percent, in a very mediocre year. That’s nearly as much as the United States in what we’re told is a very good year.”


2016 Detroit Auto Show Full Coverage


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