Nissan Announces Plans to Release Self-Driving Cars by 2020

Nissan hopes someday texting, reading a book and putting on makeup behind the wheel of your car won’t be viewed as dangerous driving habits.  The company announced this week it will be ready with multiple, commercially-viable Autonomous Drive vehicles by 2020.  Does this mean I can start sleeping all the way to work?

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Nissan announced that the company’s engineers have been carrying out intensive research on the technology for years, alongside teams from the world’s top universities, including MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Tokyo.  Speaking of Japan, work is already underway there to build a dedicated autonomous driving proving ground, to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2014. Featuring real townscapes – masonry not mock-ups – it will be used to push vehicle testing beyond the limits possible on public roads to ensure the technology is safe.

As you would expect, the technological advancements needed to meet this aggressive timeline are significant. Nissan’s autonomous driving technology is an extension of its Safety Shield, which monitors a 360-degree view around a vehicle for risks, offers warnings to the driver and takes action if necessary. It is based on the philosophy that everything required should be on board the vehicle, rather than relying on detailed external data. The technology being demonstrated at Nissan 360 means the car could drive autonomously on a highway – sticking to or changing lanes and avoiding collisions – without a map. It can also be integrated with a standard in-car navigation system so the vehicle knows which turns to take to reach its destination.

This may all seem far-fetched but Nissan has overcome unrealistic expectations before and is more than happy to prove the doubters wrong yet again.

“Nissan Motor Company’s willingness to question conventional thinking and to drive progress – is what sets us apart,” said CEO Carlos Ghosn. “In 2007 I pledged that – by 2010 – Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Today, the Nissan LEAF is the best-selling electric vehicle in history. Now I am committing to be ready to introduce a new ground-breaking technology, Autonomous Drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it.”

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