By Samir Cherfan, Special to Gulf News
It's the news story that simply won't go away. The automobile industry has been busy investing in -- and developing -- automated driving technologies. This has been a constant headline for the past two years and the potential upheaval and impact autonomous driving technology will have when it becomes a day-to-day reality cannot be overstated and should not be underestimated.
We are seeing the results of this exciting new technology already filtering into contemporary production vehicles, with digital connectivity, safety and driver assist systems now transforming the way we drive, run and maintain our cars, vans and trucks. Yet, there is a common misconception that fully autonomous driving is still years away.
The reality, however, is that this technology is being developed at incredible speed by a number of manufacturers -- and not just established carmakers, either.
Why the push for automated driving in the first place? There are two goals: aiming for zero emissions for a cleaner environment and zero road fatalities for enhanced safety on the roads. For as long as vehicles are propelled by the burning of fossil fuels, this planet will face ecological problems and, while human beings are responsible for operating these vehicles, mistakes will be made and accidents will happen.
To prevent either scenario is what responsible manufacturers are working towards, for the benefit of all.
Nissan is right at the forefront of this innovation and many of its cars are already equipped with technologies that would have seemed like science fiction only a few years ago. Certain cars have the ability to park themselves, warn their drivers of potential hazards, maintain a safe distance from other road users and automatically apply emergency braking -- all extremely practical and useful for removing the stress from driving. But the company is not resting on its laurels.
Our CEO, Carlos Ghosn, had much to say on the future of mobility, at the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show. He believed that our Intelligent Mobility vision is a framework to move customers around the world towards a safer and more sustainable future.
He added that this enabled Nissan to introduce the breakthrough LEAF, the world's first mass production EV, in 2010 -- years before any of our competitors. It has also driven our development of cutting-edge autonomous drive technologies, which will be available in a range of mass production models by 2020. He finally reaffirmed that Nissan's aim is to lead the way towards a new era of mobility.
Nissan's commitment to developing intelligent mobility is evidenced on a local level through its SmartCar application and on a global level with its Autonomous Driving R&D. In Britain, Nissan is already manufacturing 'Piloted Drive' cars, with the Qashqai crossover being earmarked to be the first to offer it to customers. This is technology that's normally the preserve of expensive luxury cars but Nissan is determined to apply it to one of its most popular -- and most accessible for many customers -- making it readily available to potentially millions of people.
Intelligent mobility still has final hurdles to cross. But the race to introduce fully automated driving to our towns and cities is not far off on the horizon.
The writer is Managing Director at Nissan Middle East.
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