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Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn Talks Safety, Efficiency and Self-Driving Cars

Gary Shapiro, CEO, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Pursuing a goal of zero-emission vehicles and zero-fatalities on the road, Nissan has developed Intelligent Mobility, a framework for moving toward a safer and more sustainable future. Nissan’s latest work enchances vehicle safety, energy efficiency and the integration of self-driving technology on our roads and society.

Recently, Consumer Technology Association (CTA) President and CEO Gary Shapiro talked with Nissan’s President and CEO Carlos Ghosn, a keynote speaker at CES 2017, about what this all means for them and the industry.

1. How do you see advancements in automotive technology changing the way we work and live?  

New automotive technologies are already making cars safer, more efficient, and more connected to society. Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility, we are investing in autonomous drive, electric vehicles, and connected mobility solutions – three forces which are going to change our industry, and our world – in ways we are only beginning to understand. More empowered and confident drivers, less impact on the environment, and cars that are true partners in our lives are just some of the benefits we envision. Ultimately, these kinds of technologies have the potential to achieve a world with zero-emissions and zero-fatality mobility. That is our ultimate goal.

2. Nissan is developing a semi-autonomous system called proPILOT. Why is semi-autonomous a critical step in the evolution to fully driverless vehicles? Do you think cars will need a steering wheel (or available driver) in the future? 

Studies are telling us that the advancement towards completely autonomous driving not only requires us to develop the right technologies, but also change mindsets.  A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group shows that public perception and social acceptance is still a challenge. People are concerned about issues of reliability, security, and safety. We need to take our customers on that journey – not expect them to leap frog to fully driverless vehicles – which is what ProPILOT offers.

The other reason is that there is a possibility that sensor and artificial intelligence technologies might not reach a level that will allow us to deploy driverless technology in mass production models, at least in the short term. Technologies such as ProPILOT can ensure we can bring autonomous drive options to customers now while we keep evolving the driverless technologies.

3. One of the aspects of ProPILOT gaining news attention is the role of Melissa Cefkin, principal scientist and design anthropologist, at your Nissan Research Center in Silicon Valley. Why is the insight of an anthropologist critical to this project? 

Design anthropologists are helping us to achieve the harmony between car, human, and society required for these technologies to work seamlessly. Specifically, Melissa and her team are helping us to understand how to bring human experience and behavior into the fundamental design of these autonomous systems. People aren’t always aware of the range of mental work that is behind even the smallest decisions, such as when to accelerate or decelerate, or how to navigate a four-way intersection. Understanding these human behaviors is critical to developing autonomous drive technologies, and Melissa’s team is playing an important role in this area. 

4. Advancements in technology may be different from tomorrow’s innovations – what obstacles may inadvertently slow or stop these innovations in mobility? Are there any state policies that are making it easier or harder to deploy new technologies? 

The biggest hurdles aren’t necessarily in the development of the innovations themselves, though it is true that we must all pick up the pace. Another piece is ensuring those innovations are ready for the market – and that regulators are ready for the innovations. If a new technology is introduced before it is fully matured, there is a risk that society will reject it, or regulators will become wary of it – and this is not good for the overall innovation of the industry. We are working on this, partnering with our traditional suppliers and some tech suppliers that are new to the industry.

5. Finally, any sneak peeks you can share about your CES 2017 participation? 

We are excited to tell our Intelligent Mobility story and showcase some of the breakthrough technologies and partnerships that are driving us toward that zero-emission, zero-fatality future I mentioned earlier. Stay tuned.

Please visit the Nissan “Drive” page on Medium to learn more about Intelligent Mobility.