March 14, 2015
Carlos Ghosn On Phases Of Autonomous Vehicles

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, has laid out a time table for steps toward fully autonomous vehicles. It all takes place in the next 10 years. Stop-and-go autonomy in the same highway lane comes in 2016.

"By the end of 2016, Nissan will make available the next two technologies under its autonomous drive strategy," said Mr. Ghosn. "We are bringing to market a traffic-jam pilot, a technology enabling cars to drive autonomously and safely on congested highways. In the same timeframe, we will make fully-automated parking systems available across a wide range of vehicles."

No lane changing. This just frees the driver from the need to keep on applying the brakes every time a wave of slowing travels back thru a column of cars.

Ghosn predicts automated lane changing on highways in 2018, automated city driving in 2020 (but with human driver needed for occasional intervention) and full driverless autonomy in 2025.

So fully automated highway driving comes much sooner than for cities. But none of these dates are far away. Surely the mass layoffs of truck and taxi drivers start by 2030 if not several years sooner.

Our computerized science fiction future looks like it is developing quite rapidly. A major part of it going to become reality in our life times. By contrast our biotech science fiction future still looks like it is a distant prospect. When will we get rejuvenation treatments? Pains in your knees, elbows, and back might be asking. Or perhaps your graying, receding hair says "Hey, look at me, you are powerless to stop it".

Some day people will think it barbaric that for generations humans had to accept aging as a normal unstoppable process. That day will happen years after all truck drivers lose their jobs.

Update: Delphi is taking an Audi on a cross-control self-driving road trip.

The consultancy McKinsey sees a much longer development period before autonomous vehicles make significant inroads with a critical mass not being reached until 2040. So we have about a 15-20 year range of uncertainty.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 March 14 12:04 PM 

Uncle Kenny said at March 16, 2015 1:18 PM:

It struck me forcibly the other day when I was slicing through traffic at 80 in a 65 zone, that the biggest reason to hate autonomous vehicles will be that they will always travel at or below the speed limit. The liability is simply too great to contemplate for any maker who programs them any other way. Might a hive of such vehicles get there faster that way? I doubt it, but I am sure that autonomous vehicles will embody every bad -- insert your favorite demographic -- driver stereotype we now have and some we haven't conceived yet.

Man in the Middle said at March 16, 2015 2:31 PM:

There is no doubt that self-driving cars can be faster on average once they are the only vehicles on the road, while also being safer. Folks like the one above insisting on "slicing" (weaving?) through traffic at 15 MPH over the limit force everyone else to drive slower than would otherwise be necessary in order to guard against risks from those who think only of themselves as they drive. Last Saturday, I watched one such driver come flying up an Interstate on-ramp at far above the speed limit, hit something on the edge of the pavement and immediately veer across several lanes of busy traffic at a 45 degree angle. The driver then over-corrected and left the highway on the side they'd entered on, again at a 45 degree angle, and the last we saw of them was their SUV heading for the ditch upside down. By sheer luck they did not hit anyone else, but it was a strong reminder to me that in general drivers on that road drive far too fast and far too close to one another for safety when something unexpected happens. Why everyone is so willing to trust the competence and good will of people they do not know is beyond me.

Tom Billings said at March 16, 2015 6:32 PM:

"Why everyone is so willing to trust the competence and good will of people they do not know is beyond me."

They don't trust others. They trust themselves, in particular their ability to avoid incompetent drivers by their quick reaction time, which can be equally fallacious, but is far more rewarding in self-esteem. I have found this to be true even of Mensa members.

David H Dennis said at March 17, 2015 12:24 PM:

I merge smoothly into the left lane of 95, accelerate up to 80-85 and stay there for the rest of my journey. Everyone else is going at about the same speed. I have never been pulled over on the freeway.

If self driving features force me much below that I won't think of them as worth using.

Larry said at March 17, 2015 12:51 PM:

They will be able to travel much faster and more safely. All our traffic safety protocols are for human reaction times and error patterns. They will weigh less, because all the safety equipment will be gone (and the electric motor/batteries will be lighter/simpler.)

Dan said at March 18, 2015 5:46 PM:

I just drove through heavy, gridlock-style traffic and had to break the rules just a smidge a number of times (i.e. yield rules, distances and such). For example, to nose into a busy street or weave through a gap in the crossing gridlock involved a bunch of little lawbreaking and friendly gestures and eye contact with drivers. I was through a tough spot in under a minute.

An automated car waiting to exactly follow the law and wait for a perfect gap in all lanes of traffic would have been at that spot for 20 minutes.

Watch your cabbie drive the next time he glides fluidly through heavy traffic. He is bending the rules or the law just a tad every ten seconds as he claims rights-of-way that aren't technically his, asks for someone to give him a gap he needs and returns the favor sometimes.

Hell I could program an automatic car myself, assuming some else wrote a module to recognize stuff. It would just go only when there is a great big easy space in front of it. But that is just my point. I have been to Chennai, India three times. If the Google car were plunked down in any major road in Chennai, it would not move until nightfall because there never really is a proper gap. As a Westerner just trying to walk across the street I found it to be quite impossible. And yet millions of people there go millions of different places every day quite fluidly. On a typical trip in an auto rickshaw, the law would be broken a little or a lot hundreds of times.

Dan said at March 19, 2015 9:03 AM:

Google's self-driving limitations so far -- an interesting read.

Dan said at March 19, 2015 9:21 AM:

My suspicion is that certain kinds of driving (heavy traffic) feature something very much like the uncertainty principle.

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is that the product of the standard deviations of position and momentum exceed Planck's constant.

I would say that the product of the standard deviations of rule-following and excess travel time exceed a constant. You can follow the safety rules tightly or you can make great time, but not both. In other words, to travel efficiently in heavy traffic you need to assume real risk (closer following distance, smaller gaps, less signal time, higher speeds, sharper stops, squeezing lemons than are optimal for safety). If you choose near-perfect safety, you must be willing to forgo many gaps, turns, yellow lights and such. What if the car needs to get over to the left lane for a left turn but there isn't a nice gap? My law abiding always gets fuzzy in these scenarios as I dangle my arm out of the window and make a friend in the left lane, and I somehow get over there every time. Does the Google car just stop in the middle of the road and wait? Does it just drive right past its turn?

What we will learn is that self-driving cars inexplicably take 50% longer or more to get from point A to point B. That will be fine for some cargo but undesirable as far as people are concerned.

Randall Parker said at March 21, 2015 4:39 PM:


I share your concern about safety margins making autonomous vehicles slow. But if all the cars on the road are autonomous and they all communicate their intentions and info with each other over wireless then stop-and-go slowness will become much less common. The problem now is one guy taps his brakes and a line of people behind him each start tapping their brakes and slowing down to varying degrees. The vehicles will make a sort of hive mind that avoids that problem.

Out on the freeway I wonder what the rules will be for autonomous vehicles. Will it be possible to override the posted speed limit? Will the vehicles accept your own info about how fast to go?

The autonomous vehicles could try to avoid the left-most lane and obey the speed limit in a middle lane. But if they become much better than humans they might be given a higher speed limit than the one humans get.


Yes, avoiding rules violations on busy surface streets seems really hard. Just turning onto a busy street can require either someone else letting you do it (some people are considerate that way) or quickly putting your car in a place that requires someone else to apply the brakes. Will you need to take over the autonomous vehicle in order to make a tricky turn? Will it signal to you that it doesn't see a safe way forward?

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