Nissan has announced that it plans to launch a number of commercially-viable self-driving vehicles by the end of the decade. According to the company’s executive vice president Andy Palmer, “We will be able to bring multiple, affordable fully autonomous vehicles to the market by 2020.”
Japan’s #2 automaker says that it is developing autonomous drive technologies in-house, but that it is open to the possibility of working with outside companies like Google. Palmer says, “I don’t preclude the possibility of working with Google, or anyone else for that matter.”
Unlike Google’s approach to autonomous vehicles, Nissan’s current technology does not require that the vehicle be connected to an Internet-based data system according to the automaker’s executive vice president for research and development, Mitsuhiko Yamashita.
“We don’t count on infrastructure so much. All the technology is in the cars. We are trying to get to crash-free, fatality-free vehicles,” says Yamashita.
Autonomous drive vehicles hold the promise of making vehicles more convenient and safer. A number of companies are currently developing autonomous drive technologies designed to re-route vehicles to improve traffic flow and prevent vehicular accidents. Palmer says the technology will mean, “frustrating and unproductive commutes could become a thing of the past.”
Kelley Blue Book senior industry analyst Karl Brauer says, “The technology to create self-driving cars is already here. As sci-fi as it sounds, self-driving cars that don’t ever crash, reduce traffic congestion and make valet attendants obsolete are coming.”
Earlier this week, Nissan gave a demonstration of an autonomous drive Leaf at a former military base in Irvine, California. The vehicle successfully ferried passengers in driving conditions designed to simulate real-world situations.
The Nissan Leaf was the first fully electric production model to go to market in late 2010. To date, approximately 100,000 Leafs have been sold worldwide, including models sold through Nissan’s partner Renault SA.
Nissan’s North American operations are based in Franklin, Tennessee, and the company was named an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year in 2010, 2011, and 2012 by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.