LAS VEGAS, U.S. -- The stepped-up efforts of Japanese carmakers to enter strategic partnerships with players in other sectors, as they try to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving industry, are being showcased at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show, which kicked off here Thursday.
"No automaker can do everything at once and alone," especially when it comes to electric vehicles, connected cars and automated driving, Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn said in Thursday's keynote speech at CES. "When we do not have the technologies in-house, we are partnering ... to find the best innovation."
One of those partnerships will involve Tokyo-based internet company DeNA. The pair will begin proof-of-concept tests for driverless transportation and other services this year in areas of Japan designated as special deregulated zones.
Nissan is also leveraging its tie-up with NASA, forged in 2015, to develop a remote support system for self-driving vehicles. A person will be able to remotely start up a vehicle if it becomes immobile due to ad hoc roadwork or other unforeseen events. The system will employ technology used to control deep-space probes.
According to Ghosn, Nissan and other companies are accelerating the time frame for developing technological advancements, presenting an opportunity to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Since July 2016, Germany's BMW has been teaming up with U.S.-based tech company Intel as well as Mobileye, an Israeli developer of driver- assistance systems. The three announced Wednesday that they will begin testing completely driverless automobiles on public roads sometime this year. This will be in addition to the thousands of miles of road tests already conducted on closed courses.
Klaus Frohlich, a director at BMW, said during Wednesday's press conference that speed in developing new technologies and the ability to enter partnerships will be the main factors that will determine the winners in the race to make autonomous vehicles.
Automakers are also forming alliances when it comes to the driving experience, which will be key to popularizing self-driving technology, "connected" cars and other concepts. Honda Motor is collaborating with America's Dreamworks Animation to develop a virtual-reality simulator for passengers. VR goggles will allow wearers to access driving data, as well as games, while the car is in motion. The Japanese carmaker is also teaming with U.S. credit-card giant Visa to develop a platform facilitating automatic payments for public parking.
The dramatic advances in artificial technology have made possible a wide range of services, said Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, president of Honda's research and development arm. He pointed to the need for open innovation, or partnerships with external businesses and experts.
However, there is a potential for failure when joining forces with groups that have no experience in making cars. "There is a lot to be gained from partnering with information-technology companies and similar outfits, but it also comes with a high level of risk," said a Nissan executive. These alliances could produce similar products and services, paving the way for ruinous price wars.