Paris, France - Cars that drive themselves could be on the roads within four years, provided red tape does not get in the way.
This according to Carlos Ghosn, head of the Renault-Nissan alliance, on Tuesday.
Silicon valley companies have long pioneered “autonomous vehicles”, and Google tested one in Nevada in 2012. Mercedes-Benz developed an S-Class sedan that drove in August without any driver input.
Now Renault has created the Next 2 prototype version of its Zoe hatch that enables drivers to let go of the controls at less than 30km/h, thanks to GPS positioning, cameras and sensors, though a human must stay behind the wheel.
“The problem isn't technology, it's legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around ... and especially who is responsible once there is no longer anyone inside,” Ghosn said at a French Automobile Club event.
Ghosn said the first cars could be on the roads in 2018 in the “pioneer countries” of France, Japan and the United States, with commercialisation starting across Europe in 2020.
An amendment to United Nations rules agreed earlier this year would let drivers take their hands off the wheel of self-driving cars. The change was pushed by Germany, Italy and France, whose prestige carmakers believe they are ready to zoom past US pioneers to bring the first vehicles to market.
Provided the amendment clears all bureaucratic hurdles, it would allow a car to drive itself, as long as the system “can be overridden or switched off by the driver”. A driver must be present and able to take the wheel at any time.