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Nissan's driverless car? It won't be fully autonomous in 2020.

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Toru Hanai/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A man runs past a logo of Nissan Motor Co at the company's global headquarters in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, May 12, 2011.

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Last summer, Nissan said it would launch a vehicle with revolutionary autonomous car technology by 2020, saying that the technology at present can detect and respond to certain emergency situations and that in the future it will allow drivers to use their time behind the wheel more productively. Nissan went on to state that the technology will also eventually allow the aged and those with disabilities to gain "true independence and mobility".

Unfortunately, the future Nissan was talking about is beyond 2020, because the driverless car Nissan plans to launch by that date won’t be fully autonomous. Speaking at an event in Japan yesterday, CEO of the Renault Nissan alliance Carlos Ghosn said a Nissan vehicle with automated lane controls and highway traffic management systems would be launched in 2016 helping consumers get accustomed to cars that do some of the driving themselves. This will essentially be a traffic jam assistant already previewed by many automakers.

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By 2018, Nissan plans to launch a vehicle with an additional multiple-lane control system, which will allow it to autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes, Ghosn added. Finally, the Renault Nissan CEO explained, before the end of the decade the automaker will launch a vehicle with intersection-autonomy, enabling vehicles to negotiate city cross-roads without driver intervention.

This means that unlike pilot-projects for completely self-driving vehicles, currently undergoing preliminary tests elsewhere in the industry, such as Google’s autonomous car, which is devoid of a steering wheel and brakes, Nissan’s autonomous car will still require a driver to remain in control and behind the wheel.

"Self-driving cars remain a long way from commercial reality," Ghosn said at yesterday’s event. "They are suitable only for tightly controlled road environments, at slow speeds, and face a regulatory minefield—that is why Nissan is focused on autonomous drive technologies that we know will work, and can be introduced over the next four to five years."


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