During a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nissan chairman of the board and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn announced several technologies and partnerships that will help the carmaker in its push to deliver autonomous vehicles.
The announcements, made as part of Nissan's 'Intelligent Mobility' plan, include several initiatives focused on speeding up the adoption of driverless cars.
Nissan's SAM technology boosts artificial intelligence with human support
The first was the announcement of Nissan's 'Seamless Autonomous Mobility' (SAM) technology – an offering developed from NASA technology.
SAM will combine artificial intelligence (AI) in the vehicle with human support, to help driverless cars decide what to do when faced with unpredictable situations and, in turn, build the knowledge of the in-vehicle AI system.
SAM technology could accelerate the transition to driverless cars, said Nissan, potentially allowing millions of them to co-exist with human drivers.
Partnership with DeNA on driverless tests in Japan
The carmaker also announced that it will begin joint tests with DeNA, the Japanese internet company, aimed at developing driverless vehicles for commercial services.
The tests will commence this year in designated zones in Japan, with a focus on developing the necessary technology.
By 2020, said Nissan, the partners hope to expand the scope of their tests to cover the commercial use of driverless technology for mobility services in Tokyo.
Launch of new LEAF offering autonomous highway driving
Ghosn also announced plans to launch a new model of Nissan's LEAF electric car.
The vehicle will feature the company's ProPILOT technology, providing single-lane autonomous driving capabilities for highway driving.
The new LEAF is coming 'in the near future', said Ghosn.
Renault-Nissan Alliance to continue connected car partnership with Microsoft
Another announcement confirmed that the Renault-Nissan Alliance would continue its partnership with Microsoft, as the companies work to develop connected car technologies.
During the keynote, the partners gave a demonstration of Microsoft's personal assistant technology Cortana, one of the technologies they are exploring together.
Last September, the two companies signed an agreement to collaborate on connected car services such as advanced navigation, predictive maintenance services, the remote monitoring of car features and over-the-air updates.
Resilient Cities partnership to lay the groundwork for autonomous driving
Finally, Ghosn announced a new partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC), a global non-profit that works to help cities build resilience to the different physical, social and economic challenges they face.
Nissan's partnership with 100RC aims to support the policy and planning required to integrate autonomous driving technologies into the world's cities, helping cities to lay the groundwork for these technologies, as well as for electric vehicles and new mobility services.
“Cities are ever-more on the forefront of tackling the world’s biggest problems – from shocks due to a changing climate to stresses due to rapid urbanization and globalization,” said 100RC President Michael Berkowitz on the organisation's blog.
“The partnership between 100RC and Nissan will begin priming cities for new automotive technology, while creating better mobility for citizens, and building long-term resilience to the shocks and stresses cities may face.”
CEO experiences autonomous drive test in California
The previous day, Nissan published a video of Ghosn experiencing a driverless car at first hand, as he took part in an autonomous drive test in California's Silicon Valley.
In an article describing his experience, Ghosn said: "Autonomous-drive cars will help older drivers get around safely much further into their senior years. They also hold the potential to help ease urban congestion, improve traffic management, and make our roads far safer.
"But what I believe will win over drivers – even those of us who love to drive – is the fact that autonomous drive and connectivity technology will give us back some time to use more productively. After all, nobody enjoys negotiating stop-and-go traffic on a clogged expressway."
People would always want the chance to drive on their own, acknowledged Ghosn. But after experiencing a car that drives itself, "you will feel like you have stepped into the future", he concluded.