Renault Nissan CEO: driverless cars will be here by 2025

BARCELONA, Spain--Early autonomous cars will hit the road but 2016 but don't expect to see driverless cars until at least 2025. Speaking at a keynote address here at Mobile World Congress 2015, Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said regulators will be reluctant to allow cars without drivers because the technology is more complex and cyber security issues must first be resolved.

Carlos Ghosn

Ghosn (Source: Renault Group)

But autonomous cars are a different story. Ghosn said that Renault Nissan will introduce autonomous cars to their top line of vehicles in 2016.  These cars that will help customers navigate traffic jams because the vehicles will be able to sense when cars are close by and slow down or speed up accordingly.  However, Ghosn also said that further capabilities such as having cars make decisions regarding lane changes will not happen until 2018. 

Interestingly, Ghosn said that autonomous cars are a huge opportunity for car makers because they make cars safer by reducing accidents, which will drive consumer demand. In addition, he said that autonomous cars will resolve traffic issues, making them popular with the consumers and government officials. He noted that using M2M connectivity, autonomous cars will be able to sync with red lights and with other vehicles making for smoother and safer transport.

Ghosn also said he is not concerned about competition from new players like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)-- firms that have expressed interest in making autonomous cars. "I'm curious," Ghosn said. "In 2006 we announced mass market electric cars and no one was interested. ... The fact that companies outside the car are saying they will [be doing] cars is interesting."

Ghosn's comments are similar to those made by a General Motors executive speaking at a FierceWireless-hosted event at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.  At that event, Philip Abram, CIO of GM said that GM is interested in working with variety of connected car services, including those from smartphone vendors like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).  

Ghosn added that the slow spread of electric cars is due to the lack of charging infrastructure, the high prices of the cars and the fact that these cars can't be driven for more than 150 miles before they need recharged. Interestingly, Atlanta is the biggest market for Renault Nissan in the U.S.  Ghosn noted that the company sells 1,000 electric cars per month in Atlanta. However, he also added that Atlanta's success with electric cars has not spread to other U.S. cities.

Related articles:
GM: We're open to Apple, Google and other connected car services
Connected car ecosystem still in transition
Ford dumps Microsoft for BlackBerry's QNX in Sync in-car platform
Report: Google wants to build Android Auto directly into cars