Nissan has announced it intends to bring autonomous cars to the market by the year 2020. This kind
of automotive initiative, which has already been aggressively pursued by other companies, perhaps most notably publicized, Google, for some time now.
In 2013, this concept seems to be spreading across the industry, as Nissan throws its proverbial hat into the ring bringing its own design of technology to fruition.
The Japan-based carmaker said it intended to bring several models that are capable of self-driving to the commercial market. The company said it has been researching the technology for years, along with teams "from the world's top universities", according to a recent press release.
Additionally, Nissan said it has already developed prototypes that are ready to test with a goal to "build a dedicated autonomous driving proving ground" by the end of fiscal year 2014.
"Nissan Motor Company's willingness to question conventional thinking and to drive progress – is what sets us apart," said CEO Carlos Ghosn in the release. "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."
Read more: Guide to choose the best car battery
The testing ground will be based on real townscapes, not mockups, said Nissan and this will be used to push the limits of the test vehicles to see they are safe and ready to go. The carmaker said in addition to safety, the cars are designed to be realistically affordable to consumers.
“We will be able to bring multiple, affordable fully autonomous vehicles to the market by 2020,” Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president, told reporters yesterday at a briefing in Irvine, California, according to Bloomberg. Such systems mean “frustrating and unproductive commutes could become a thing of the past,” he added.
As Nissan forges ahead with its self-driving cars, the company will find it has competition. Google has been steadily seeking approvals in various U.S. states as it intends to bring the technology to the road sooner than later. The company has been promoting its Toyota Prius all over the U.S. with its most recent showcase about to occur in Blacksburg, Va. as the company partners with Virginia Tech in a not-yet-announced collaboration.
While the technology is here, without question, the bigger question perhaps is whether or not consumers will embrace autonomous cars. Many consumers have indicated in media reports since Google first announced its intentions a few years back that they would miss the feel of driving. Other consumers are eager to embrace it. A survey in April 2012 suggested 1 in 5 drivers said they would be interested in self-driving cars.
Before Nissan, Google, or any other company, releases an autonomous car to market, there are a lot of tests and approvals to occur. The technology must meet specific benchmarks and then there is also the issue of insurance society has to work out.
It is highly likely self-driving cars will become viable at some time in the near future as technology progresses very rapidly. While companies have goals set and are likely to reach these goals, the reality is before autonomous cars hit car showrooms, the consumer has to be ready to embrace the concept and other bureaucratic issues associated with laws will have to be worked out.