Nissan chairman: Mass marketing of driverless cars by 2021

Nissan Motor Company Chairman and former CEO Carlos Ghosn said on Sunday he believes the mass marketing of driverless cars by U.S. automakers is right around the corner.

“I would predict that this will come between 2021 and 2022,” Ghosn, who also is chairman and CEO of French auto company Renault, told Trish Regan on “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Ghosn said the reason it will still be a few years before more driverless cars are produced has to do with regulators and the robustness of the market for the vehicles.

“We need also the regulator to accept the fact that, on a mass marketing point of view, you’re going to have plenty of cars without [a] driver. So I would say prototypes are ready — 2018, 2019. We’re gonna be continuing to work on robustness of the system —2021 will be my guess,” he said.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) on Friday said it filed a safety petition with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to deploy its all-electric Cruise AV (autonomous vehicle), which has no steering wheel, pedals or other manual controls in 2019 — the same year the automaker said it plans to roll out a ride-hailing-type service. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the agency will review GM’s petition and give it “responsible and careful consideration,” during a speech at the Detroit Auto Show on Sunday, where she also announced the Trump administration will unveil revised guidelines for self-driving cars this summer.

Ford is another major U.S. automaker already dabbling in the driverless car sector. In addition to its partnership with Domino’s Pizza (NYSE:DPZ), its latest collaboration is with on-demand delivery service provider Postmates. Both companies will run pilot programs to see how self-driving technology will impact the delivery experience for consumers, enable brick-and-mortar retailers to reach new customer bases and transform how commerce moves in communities in which they operate, Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, said in a blog post.

Many, including Ghosn and Chao, believe the implementation of self-driving cars will make travel safer and reduce the number of accidents on roadways. Nearly 37,500 people were killed in crashes in the U.S. in 2016, a 5.6% increase from 2015, though distraction-affected crashes decreased 2.2% in the same period, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“This technology has tremendous potential to enhance safety … [Automated vehicles] have faster reaction times, 360-degree vision and they can see at night,” Chao said.