Nissan believes it will have self-driving cars on the road as early as 2020. CEO Carlos Ghosn made the lofty pledge in a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan – though he also admitted that the technology isn't currently where it needs to be.
And Nissan wants to get there first, even if other carmakers and Google are also in the race. The Japanese carmaker isn't keen on entering a partnership with Google, which makes sense: After all, if the Nexus smartphone and tablet situation is any indicator, such partnerships usually end up with Google getting the branding and the partner becoming little more than 'hardware maker for Google'.
READ MORE: We test Volvo's self-driving car
More reasons to like the Leaf
Nissan's Leaf, an electric car geared to do away with emissions, was a gamble that the company believe has paid off. So much so that it will be one of the models that will showcase whatever developments Nissan makes in autonomous driving. Besides the Leaf, the Infiniti is also going to see a lot of autonomous tweaks.
The carmaker is hoping to have fully automated parking available in its vehicles, as well as the Traffic Jam Assistant feature that lets the car go autonomous in heavy traffic. Nissan is also working on a system that will help cars change lanes: adaptive cruise control will steer a the vehicle around slower traffic when nearby lanes are clear of obstruction. Another feature would be the ability for cars to negotiate city intersections without driver input.
Exciting developments indeed – though the question is whether Nissan would get approval. Paramount would be safety concerns: would it be wise or proven safe to let a car navigate its way out of traffic without a person deciding just where and when to turn?
But if the technology is there, why not? Traffic jams are a major source of stress for the average driver and prove overly ideal in creating traffic accidents. Less driving, more intelligent navigating is good, we say. And if it comes in an environmentally better package: why not?