Nissan CEO on possible Apple car: 'It's obviously good news'

Carlos Ghosn also laid out his vision for autonomous driving, with the first assisted driving capabilities coming next year and a driverless car pulling up in 10 years.

The Nissan Leaf is one of the most popular electric cars on the road. Ghosn sees more coming.Photo by CNET

BARCELONA -- Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of the Nissan-Renault Alliance, welcomes the idea that Apple wants to get into the electric car business.

"If Apple does it, obviously it's good news for us," he said in a Monday keynote presentation at the Mobile World Congress trade show.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is a proponent of more zero-emission vehicles like electric cars.Photo by Getty

It may not be obvious to everyone. Given Apple's penchant for dominating the businesses it enters -- whether it's digital music or smartphones -- Ghosn's answer sounds rather counter-intuitive. But he is less concerned about competition and more about raising consumer awareness of electric cars -- something Apple could do very quickly. Nissan was the first automaker to aggressively push the idea of the zero-emission electric car, and Ghosn laid out his vision for the future of the car.

Ghosn's response was prompted by a report that Apple is shooting to launch an electric car by 2020, which would represent a radical new area for the world's most valuable company.

"The fact that a company outside of the auto industry wants to do electric cars is refreshing," he said, adding he was curious about the prospect.

Likewise, he doesn't see automakers like BMW or Tesla as rivals, but rather allies helping to encourage the adoption of electric cars. Together, the industry still needs to work on issues like battery life and the range of the car, the charging infrastructure and car prices, which consumers still deem too high.

Over time, Ghosn said he sees more companies selling electric or fuel-cell-based vehicles, with government regulations on stricter gas emissions making it too costly to build traditional cars.

Self-driving cars

Ghosn also looked a little further ahead to the concept of autonomous driving. The first wave of autonomous driving will emerge next year, he said. But the capability will be limited to a car stuck in a traffic jam, which will allow the driver to take their hands off of the wheel and their eyes off the road.

"The technology is ready, we just need regulators to accept," he said.

Read CNET's Mobile World Congress coverage here.

By 2018, he sees the second wave of autonomous driving emerge, when a car will be able to drive on a highway and change lanes by itself.

The third phase is driving in the city, which he sees coming in 2020. He acknowledged that his company still struggles with it because of the different variables that come with city driving.

Nissan and Renault already have a plan in place, with one high-end car at each brand coming out with the autonomous capabilities every other year.

Lastly, there is the complete driverless car, which Ghosn said he sees in 10 years or more. But there remains cyber-security issues to deal with before that becomes a reality.

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