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Autonomous future still unclear: Nissan

Talk the talk: CETRAN’s Niels de Boer (left) and Nissan’s Ogi Redzic at the Nissan Futures event in Singapore last week.

Nissan exec says driverless technology needs to be adaptable to different regions

Nissan logo13 Feb 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in SINGAPORE

THE future roll out of autonomous vehicles is still relatively unclear, according to a senior Nissan executive, who acknowledged that the technology will have to be flexible and able to adapt to different regions around the world.

At the Nissan Futures event in Singapore last week, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance senior vice-president of connected vehicles and mobility services Ogi Redzic said that while it was early days in the development of autonomous vehicles, Nissan was engaging the public in its trials.

“When it comes to driverless, there are a lot of statements, a lot of trials,” he said. “We never said we will have a perfect solution on this (particular) date.

“What we did say, and what you are seeing from us, is we are on public roads in Japan testing this, letting the general public get in the car just to give them a glimpse of what’s coming to get some feedback from them and also do this together. I don’t believe that anybody can really tell you what this should really look like, how it should operate.”

Mr Redzic said safety would always be a priority for Nissan, and highlighted safety challenges for driverless mobility in cities.

“From an OEM perspective, safety comes first. This is a no-brainer in our world. Whatever product we design has to be safe first. But what does safety mean these days? I think it is different for a vehicle that a person drives and takes responsibility for the vehicle. You need to design systems that are fail safe,” he said.

“We will need help in the early days of this technology to maybe create some dedicated zones for pick up and drop off for autonomous vehicles. It is very likely that will have to happen. Because as a regular driver today, you look (to see if) is anyone coming, (then) drop off somebody in the street – it is not safe. We need to really worry about safety.”

Mr Redzic admitted that it was difficult to predict the reality of autonomous driving in global cities and suggested that the tech would have to be adaptable to the city it is operating in.

“I don’t think anybody has a crystal ball. Only when you are on the road in different cities it is going to be very different – it is also very clear. You cannot expect the same thing you designed to work in Tokyo to work in Jakarta, it is just not going to work.

“Mobility like this is very local. Driverless mobility, I expect it is going to be built from these pockets and then it is going to expand. But I don’t think anyone can develop (global) solutions … it cannot work like that.”

Program director of the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles Nanyang Technological University (CETRAN), Niels de Boer, said he believed that drastic changes were still a while off and that in certain parts of Australia, little would change.

“Do we see major changes to the vehicles in 10 years’ time? I don’t think so.

Do we see major changes to cars in 20 years’ time? I think we are going to look at it (like) a little bit of science fiction type solution in 20 years. We talk to people and people are thinking (it will be) really quite futuristic, but it is not anything that is going to happen in the next two years.

“I think you’ll see a bigger differentiation for mobility within big mega cities and outside big mega cities. I think outside big mega cities, I can’t see any fundamental change to the mobility, although you will get a lot more vehicles with automated technologies to improve comfort and safety.

“If you look at many places in Australia I can still see people still owning the private car, but it might have an autopilot type of mode for long-distance driving to address fatigue and other dangers.

“Mega cities, I can see a lot of changes. There are cities that are thinking quite wild and doing interesting things.”

Mr de Boer added that the bold targets for the timing of a roll out of fully autonomous vehicles predicted by some car-makers were unhelpful.

“The level of autonomy and the conditions where it drives, you would need to be very specific. So if you say by 2022, what do you really mean? Is it trialling in the rest area during off peak hours?“I think a lot of these claims are quite unhelpful and they are overly aggressive. You are looking at legislation to support it that is still pretty far away.”

Mr Redzic said there was some freedom in designing a driverless car, but admitted there were also a number of restrictions.

“It is not a cheap goal to put a new platform together. If we create something that is focused on driverless ability, we need to put a lot of thought into it.

What is the easy way to get in or out? Will anybody ever want to be in the middle seat in a shared-mobility vehicle?“It probably should have some freedom on how these vehicles are going to look.

“And frankly, they probably don’t have to go 150-180-200km/h. Because it will be used in the city primarily. You will not be doing city-to-city ability any time soon. We have more freedom in some ways and less freedom in some ways.”

In terms of future connected technology, Mr Redzic said while Nissan would differentiate itself from other car companies, the key was to keep the tech simple and user friendly.

“I think in some ways our job is to make technology as simple as possible. You don’t want to differentiate by making something that is really complex and really different – a lot of tech stacked up but not a lot of intuition and ease of use for the customer. It is all about making it easy for me, I don’t care what’s behind it. What does it do for me? And not what you put into it and the facts of the product – it’s not really important.

“So when it comes to connected, our job is really to simplify. Make it very easy for them to use what we have in the car and not trying to over think it.

And anyway, it (tech) changes very fast.”

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