Google to the front, but Nissan plans to launch Autonomous Cars by 2020

For all the doubters and naysayers of automated vehicle technology, the past few weeks have been very depressing with a slew of announce...

For all the doubters and naysayers of automated vehicle technology, the past few weeks have been very depressing with a slew of announcements about the impending launch of autonomous cars way ahead of the schedule that for some of us was already far too close for comfort.

Last week, Google announced that its 23 self-driving cars have had just eleven accidents in the past six years of mostly unassisted driving, a claim that they seem to be very proud of, seeing as the vehicles have covered some 1.7 million miles during the period. Google is quick to point out that the figure is even more impressive when you consider that all of the accidents were the result of human intervention.

To date, all of the Google testing has taken place in Toyota and Lexus vehicles that had been retrofitted with Google’s autonomous car technology. Now Google is ready to unleash the Google Pod on the unsuspecting public; well, only in California for now, that is. Not that you will see any on the highway just yet. The pint-sized vehicles will be limited to ‘neighbourhood-friendly’ areas and limited to a top speed of 40kph, according to Chris Umson, who is the Director of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project. The diminutive Google Pod will also have a manual override facility and be fitted with a removable steering wheel, brakes and an accelerator to pacify the skeptical Californian State Legislators and allow humans to take over when necessary or if the desire of the occupants to be in control becomes overwhelming. If you want to catch a glimpse of the future, you will have to travel to the hills and dales around Google’s Mountain View California home, although it is expected that this range will be gradually extended over time.

Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn is trying not to get left behind in the all-out rush to let machines take control and has made the bold announcement that Nissan will be in the business of providing autonomous cars by the year 2020.

Ghosn’s claim may hit a few snags, though, as the vehicles will have to overcome the doubters and haters; oh, and the regulators who first have to set the standards for self-drive technology and, as we all know, legislators are not always so good at being proactive. So while car companies are telling us that we want autonomous cars, or at least semi-autonomous cars, they may not be able to do so much with their ever growing store of autonomous features unless big governments pass the necessary legislation.

Unperturbed by the seeming mountain of red-tape that they will have to navigate, Ghosn said, “Starting from late next year, we plan to offer what internally we are calling the ‘Traffic Jam Pilot,’ a feature that allows the car to drive autonomously and safely in heavy, stop-and-go traffic. This eventually will be offered across a wide range of our Nissan, Infiniti and Renault vehicles.”

Nissan is expected to introduce the technology, which will allow a car “to autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes” in 2018. By 2020, according to Ghosn, the company plans to introduce vehicles that can find the way without human intervention in “nearly all situations, including complex city driving.”

Apparently Nissan has been talking to and listening to the younger drivers who indicated that they want cars to be packed with autonomous driver technology along with a level of connectivity that would shame many of today’s homes, assumedly so that they can chat on Facebook whilst they are whisked along to their destination by some trusted robotic vehicle.

In a quote carried by the Associated Press, Ghosn claims: “Our cars will be ready!” The only question remains is will legislators have caught up and will the buying public really want them?



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