About 60% of consumers will pay a premium of $1,000 (£806) for a vehicle that comes with an option to allow it to drive autonomously on a highway, according to Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan-Renault.
Ghosn discussed the data at Web Summit, the giant tech conference in Lisbon this week.
The data comes from sales of the Nissan Serena minivan in Japan, Ghosn said. He said the option package proves there is a large future market for cars that can drive autonomously. He was asked how big that market might be.
“Oh, huge,” he replied.
Nissan did a test in Japan of a Serena model that was capable of single lane autonomous driving on a highway. The car has the ability to stay centered in a lane, and to keep its distance from the cars around it. “This is the first wave … on the highway. If you’re on the highway the car can drive by itself,” Ghosn said.
“We offered it as an option, a paid option. Obviously, when you are offering this free everyone says ‘yes.’ This is not significant. Offer it at a price and see how many people take it. 60% of people buying this car are taking this option, priced. That’s very encouraging, and here we are only talking single lane highway autonomous. So imagine what we are going to be to city-driving, autonomous. This is where we are going to have most of the benefit because most of the people say we enjoy driving, yes, but we do not enjoy driving in a traffic jam.”
Traffic-choked cities will be where autonomous cars really take off, Ghosn said. “Read a book, video-conference, study, write a letter — it’s a great advantage,” he said.
He added that he believes that autonomous commuting could give people back the “lost” two hours a day they currently spend driving.
The Serena autonomous-driving function comes as part of an optional package, Ghosn said.