Mark your calendars folks.  2020 is the year that Nissan will be "multiple, commercially-viable Autonomous Drive vehicles."

Nissan recently announced that its engineers have been conducted "intensive research" on autonomous drive technology "for years." Nissan adds this:

"Work is already underway in Japan to build a dedicated autonomous driving proving ground, to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2014. Featuring real townscapes - masonry not mock-ups - it will be used to push vehicle testing beyond the limits possible on public roads to ensure the technology is safe."

How cheap?  And what will the level of availability be?  Nissan answers both of those questions:

"Nissan's autonomous driving will be achieved at realistic prices for consumers. The goal is availability across the model range within two vehicle generations."

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn stated:

"Nissan Motor Company's willingness to question conventional thinking and to drive progress – is what sets us apart.  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."

What does it take to make autonomous drive a reality?  Here's the long list of Nissan's partners on the project:

AIST(National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Chuo University, Hiroshima University, The University of Iowa, University of Oxford, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NAIST (Nara Institute of Science and Technology), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Russian State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics, Kyushu University, Keio University, Nagoya University, Shinshu University, Tohoku University, Tokyo Polytechnic University, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, UC Berkeley, The University of Tokyo, University of Tsukuba, Waseda University, University of Yamanashi.

Finally, why do we need autonomous driving vehicles?

  • Six million crashes in the US per year cost $160 billion and rank as the top reason of death for four- to 34-year olds. And, 93% of accidents in the US are due to human error, typically due to inattention.
  • In the future, Autonomous Drive also means less input from the driver; U.S. drivers average 48 minutes per day on the road - hundreds of hours a year that could be used more productively.
For even more on Nissan's autonomous drive, check out the video of Nissan's vice-president, Andy Palmer, discussing the importance of the tech.