Nissan pledges self-driving cars by 2020

Whether you can drive them or not, however, will be up to regulators.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Nissan says the company will have developed road-ready autonomous cars by 2020.

Speaking to reporters at Nissan's headquarters in Yokohama, Japan on Monday, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said the company's self-driving technology will be functional and ready by 2020. However, as reported by the Associated Press, the chance to drive them down city streets depends on government regulators -- the biggest hurdle in autonomous vehicle research and development.

Ghosn said good progress is being made in reaching this goal, and "our cars will be ready."

Self-driving cars and autonomous features are being explored and developed by a number of heavyweight companies. Google is one of the most well-known companies exploring this technology through its self-driving car project. After a long test phase, the tech giant revealed last week that its prototype autonomous vehicles will be tested on public roads over summer.

In addition, Tesla is working on automatic turn and passing functions in its Model S Sedan series. One issue regulators face is the problem of liability if self-driving cars are involved in a collision -- forcing automakers such as Tesla to consider the issue rather than end up in court in the future.

Autonomous technology can make the driving experience more efficient and potentially safer -- but the human driver has to be shown to be in control. In the case of Tesla's turn functions, forcing the driver to start the move through pressing a button lifts the responsibility from vehicle -- and therefore automaker -- to the driver by showing intent.

In order to avoid regulatory hurdles, more automakers may tweak their self-driving technology in the same way.

Nissan is not pursuing same goal as Google, since the company's focus is on driver assistance and enhancement rather than the removal of control from a typical driver. Ghosn said Nissan may end up with a driverless car, but that is not the automaker's aim. The executive commented:

"That is the car of the future. But the consumer is more conservative [...] that makes us cautious."

In January, Nissan and NASA's Ames Research Center signed an agreement to jointly develop autonomous vehicle systems, robotics, human-machine interface, software analysis/verification and network-enabled applications. The research will focus on the development of algorithms, concepts and self-driving car prototypes.

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