Nissan hopes to beat Google in the autonomous car race and deliver the world’s first commercially available driverless vehicle in less than seven years. Going even further, Nissan says they’ll offer several models with a driverless feature by the year 2020. While there’s plenty of time in between now and a driverless future, today’s announcement confirms automakers see this new technology as the future of commuting. To help them reach this goal, Nissan said they would be building a facility by next year to test their self-driving systems. So far they’ve been able to offer a proof of concept by equipping one of their all-electric Leaf automobiles with lasers, radars and other guidance systems. Google has also been hard at work to deliver a driverless car of their own design to the public. Gaining inspiration from their pledge to build an all-electric car, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said his company is ready and able to offer a driverless car by 2020. “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 in a statement. “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.” The Japanese automaker announced some partners who will help them develop and deliver their self-driving system in only seven years. Several universities around the world have agreed to work with Nissan, including Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Oxford. The systems they build with these universities and later prove on their 2014 test track in Japan may also be an affordable option when they arrive. According to Nissan, they’re estimating it should only cost about $1,000 extra to add the self-driving package to any luxury sedan. On Tuesday, Nissan demonstrated the capabilities of their system thus far in Irvine, California. A Leaf outfitted with cameras and sensors was able to perform several common, every day driving
maneuvers. For instance, the car stopped itself when it approached a red light. A dummy was thrown in front of the moving car to simulate an emergency during the demonstration. The autonomous Leaf automatically swerved out of the way to avoid a collision. Unlike Google’s current iteration of driverless cars, the Nissan system builds all of their sensors directly into the vehicle. The Google autonomous Prius uses a large cone-like device that rotates on top of the car to detect its surroundings. “Most of the technology solutions are in sight. The challenge is not…the technology,” said Executive Vice President Andy Palmer during Tuesday’s demonstration. “The big step is the regulatory framework.” Few states have allowed driverless cars on their roadways, presenting an uphill battle that Nissan, Google and other interested automakers must fight in the future. Google already has a small fleet of driverless cars navigating themselves around Silicon Valley and their campuses. It’s recently been
rumored that German auto parts maker Continental AG will soon begin building parts for the Google GX3200 self-driving car. Google has also sold their first 2,500 cars to mobile taxi service Uber, weeks after investing $250 million in the company.