Nissan held a presentation in Southern California yesterday to demonstrate the Japanese automaker’s latest developments in self-driving car technology – while also sharing plans to bring such vehicles to market in less than a decade.
“Nissan Motor Company pledges that we will be ready to bring multiple affordable, energy efficient, fully autonomous-driving vehicles to the market by 2020,” said executive vice president Andy Palmer, who was in attendance at the event in Irvine.
In a separate statement, Nissan’s chief executive Carlos Ghosn reiterated the company’s commitment to innovation.
“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,” said Ghosn, according to CNNMoney. “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.”
Nissan said that it has teamed up with researchers at top universities in both the U.S. and Japan – including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and the University of Tokyo – to develop self-driving technologies. The company also stated that it is building a “proving ground” in Japan to test the sophisticated systems in a safe environment.
During Tuesday’s presentation, a self-driving Nissan Leaf prototype demonstrated some of its special abilities. The prototype utilizes a laser guidance system, radar sensors, and an array of cameras to navigate its surroundings – all of which are built into the car.
“The car could detect a red light and slow to a stop. When a dummy pedestrian jumped in front of the car, it automatically swerved to the left to avoid a collision. When a test driver engaged the turn signal, the car turned right to simulate exiting a freeway,” said The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal continued: “Nissan plans to roll out autonomous driving technology and make it available across its model lineup within two product generations.”
Proponents of autonomously-guided vehicles hope that electronically-controlled lasers, sensors, and cameras will reduce the frequency of accidents blamed on human error. Several other top automakers – along with Internet search giant Google – have been hard at work on self-driving automobiles for years. Many current vehicles already offer some form of autonomous driving capability – such as being able to maintain a safe distance between cars while on cruise control or braking when an obstacle is detected.
Several U.S. states have signed legislation that allows driverless cars to be tested on public roads. However, regulators and insurance companies – as well as the automakers themselves – are still uncertain about who would be liable in the event of a self-driving car accident.
“Most of the technology solutions are in sight. The challenge is not the technology,” Palmer said. “The big step is the regulatory framework.”