Add Nissan, the third largest car manufacturer in Japan, to the list of companies that believes it can have a self-driving vehicle in the market in the next few years. Its estimate is that the industry can be in the business commercially by 2020.
The self-driving car, which Nissan spoke about at the Geneva Auto Show, is not built by the company, but is part of the effort of smaller firm. In a presentation:
Rinspeed imagines how high-end cars might look like when autonomous driving technology matures. Based on the Tesla Model S, the XchangE is basically a compact hotel on wheels. With a motel bathtub paint job.
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Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) has already proven itself as the leader in the electric car business with its well-regarded Model S.
The new self-driving concept vehicle will have 4G technology, be tablet controlled and have extravagant entertainment features.
Rinspeed describes itself as a "think tank and mobility lab for the auto industry." Among the products it claims it has introduced are the turbocharger, the "Play-Boxx" (rear seat entertainment) and the steering wheel with integrated controls. If the boasting is accurate, it is a very impressive list.
Like most self-driving cars, the one Nissan is promoting has the challenge of adoption. Nissan may take one road in its development of a self-driving car, while other major manufacturers may take others. On crowded roads, it is not clear yet how important it is that all these systems are compatible. It is hard to think forward to a world with a dozen completely different systems.
It does say something, however, that major car manufactures are making claims that self-driving vehicles are less than a decade away. Nissan has enough global sales to leverage acceptance of its system. But so do its larger rivals from Japan -- Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (HMC).