Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale Calif played host to the prototype of the autonomous driving Nissan Leaf recently. The two car makers, Renault and Nissan, have promised to release 10 self-driving car models in just four years. The companies also stated that these car models are being planned with the aim of relieving humans of their driving duties and still offer a solution that costs lesser than employing a driver.
The companies laid a road map on Thursday, and the roadmap calls for Renault and Nissan to gradually phase in the self-driving vehicles in the US, China, Europe and even Japan as its engineers have taken time to fine-tune the autonomous car technology over safety concerns.
The companies’ self-driving car, that if released this year will be able to steer while traveling on a single lane of the highway, and it can also accelerate and stop whenever there is a need. The companies promised that they will be improving the cars to be able to navigate different highways lanes, changing lanes automatically and by 2018, the cars will be able to handle different streets on their own.
With Tesla Motors already boasting of these features, only time will tell if the Renault-Nissan breakthrough will keep up with the competition. Tesla Motors have been able to change lanes automatically while some other driverless vehicles have already started parking themselves.
With the stiff competition from other automakers and tech giants, Renault and Nissan still have a lot of work to do before its robotic technology can be called ‘perfect’. Talking of the point they are in their development, the Nissan Leaf was tested and the driver still had to grab the steering wheel and even step on the brakes for over three times in 25 minutes. Even when the traffic signal turned red, the car still didn’t decelerate prompting the driver to step on the brakes to avoid a collision.
The two companies have stated that their alliance to build autonomous cars is with the goal of reducing the number of accidents that are causes by distracted, hapless and drunk human drivers and bring a technology that will not quickly wear out.
Toyota, Ford Motors, General Motors, Google Inc, Uber and even Apple Inc are companies that are competing in the in the self-driving niche. The intensified effort to improve the self-driving technology is with the view that people should rather text, read and watch videos instead of spending most of their time fighting with the steering wheels and brakes in traffic.
The need to trust cars with human life is still a very hot debate, with Google logging over 1 million miles in self driving cars since 2009 and hoping to have vehicles that do not require human intervention by 2020. Renault and Nissan are just two of the many companies that have gone against Google’s belief, stating that the self-driving feature is only used under some traffic conditions and that the cars still need a human to take over if the robotic technology starts behaving funny.
Researchers have also supported the views of some automakers that the shift to robotic driving may create dangerous situations because people would not be ready to take over the driving responsibilities if they have been distracted by something else after the car has been put in the autonomous mode.