Nissan says Autonomous Drive commercially viable by 2020

Yesterday we reported that ABI Research predicts driverless vehicles will start to appear in North America by the beginning of the next decade. That position is supported by a recent announcement from Nissan Motor Company, which says it will be ready with multiple, commercially-viable “Autonomous Drive” vehicles by 2020. That’s the same year being targeted by Audi, BMW and General Motors.

By “commercially viable” the company means the technology will be realistically priced for consumers, though exactly what that means is unclear. Nissan says its goal is to have autonomous driving available across its model range within two vehicle generations.

The company also noted that it is building a dedicated autonomous driving proving ground in Japan, scheduled for completion by the end of fiscal year 2014. It will feature realistic townscapes, which the company emphasizes will be “masonry not mock-ups,” that will be used to test the vehicles in ways not possible on public roads.

Nissan says the philosophy behind its autonomous cars is that everything required should be on board, without the need for detailed external data. The company’s driverless cars will build on its Safety Shield technology, which monitors a 360-degree around the vehicle and can offer warnings or take action as needed.

In a release discussing the technology, Nissan cites several common arguments for the value of autonomous vehicles:

  • Six million crashes in the U.S. per year cost $160 billion
  • Car crashes are the top cause of death for young people
  • Most accidents are due to human error, typically due to inattention.
  • Autonomous vehicles could free up hundreds of hours per year for a typical driver
  • The technology offers greater freedom for the elderly and disabled

Nissan is demonstrating autonomous drive technology using modified Nissan LEAFs at Nissan 360, an invitation-only event being held now in Southern California.

[ photo courtesy of Nissan Motor Company ]