Nissan’s NASA Scientist Says Cars, Buildings To Become One

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Maarten Sierhuis
Maarten Sierhuis

How close are we?

I am not a futurist, but the [artificial intelligence] technology is there today. Nissan, Google, most car manufacturers are working on this technology today. Nissan Motor Co., for example, shows this type of technology on an Infiniti Q50, which has automatic braking when you are too close to another car, and it has lane-changing warning systems if you are veering. You have cameras in the car today, so if you back up you have warning systems. To go from there to a car that parks itself and takes over in a dangerous situation, the car manufacturers are in advanced engineering and design and are testing these things already. So before the end of the decade you will have cars that can drive on the highway themselves and stay in the same lane. The question is fully autonomous, where you are sitting in the back seat and typing up your notes. That is the leap that will make my vision possible.

It has been documented that the echo boomers are less interested in driving cars. Do you worry that demand for cars on a per capita basis is going to fall?

I am from Europe, the Netherlands. It is incredibly expensive to drive a car. But that doesn’t mean there are no cars in Holland. There is a lot of congestion, and the roads are full. Mobility is part of human nature. Exploration is part of human nature, and independent choice and autonomy are part of human nature, so the way people think about the transportation system will change. But people will still want autonomy and want to move in the way they want. Maybe there is a whole new business model for Nissan that now isn’t there, and we can create it. It’s like Facebook. We didn’t know we wanted to be social online, and now in hindsight it is, ‘Of course!’

It might be that you don’t own a car any more, but you could demand a car at any moment, Uber but autonomous. If my car becomes my office, maybe my company owns it, and I have it for the time I work there. This is the whole shared office space. There is privacy, and that is a really difficult issue. How will we create a society that is not George Orwell’s “1984?”

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