The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Nissan's Deadline for Self-Driving Cars Looking Wobbly

Engineer lightly questions Ghosn's recent boast of fielding robocars by 2018

1 min read
Nissan's Deadline for Self-Driving Cars Looking Wobbly
Maarten Sierhuis, Director, Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley
Photo: Nissan

When Carlos Ghosn, head of Nissan, recently announced that he'd sell autonomous cars by 2018, two years earlier than he'd said earlier, few eyebrows rose. In either case, Nissan would be the first off the mark, so it hardly seemed to matter.

Yesterday, though, an engineer working on the project seemed to free up a little wiggle room at an autonomous vehicles conference held in San Francisco.

"Let me say this is an ongoing discussion within the company—what is the right level of technology to bring out first," said Maarten Sierhuis, head of Nissans research operations in Silicon Valley. "As a researcher, I want full autonomy! But the product planners maybe have another answer."

His remark came in answer to a question from the audience. 

Sierhuis noted that Nissan's Q50 car is the only one on the market to incorporate "drive by wire" technology, which severs the physical connection between the driver and the wheels of the car. (Unless, that is, there is a system failure, at which point a backup mechanical system takes over, a stopgap that future generations of the car will someday outgrow.)

"We will see increasing capability in the Q50 up until we see autonomy, whether in 2018 or 2020 remains to be seen," Sierhuis said. "Also in the Q50 there is Adas [Advanced Driver Assist System], with collision, braking and lane-changing assistance. You can buy this today, and for less than US $100,000."

That brought laughs from the several hundred engineers in the audience. They'd just heard Ralf Herrtwich of Daimler praise the self-driving powers of his company's Mercedes S Class, the price of which starts a little below the $100,000 mark.

The Conversation (0)

We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

Keep Reading ↓Show less