Nissan Unveils Autonomous Drive LEAF; Promises Tech Will be Available to Consumers by 2020 at a Realistic Price (w/video)


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

Autonomous Nissan LEAF

Autonomous Nissan LEAF

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.

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11 Comments on "Nissan Unveils Autonomous Drive LEAF; Promises Tech Will be Available to Consumers by 2020 at a Realistic Price (w/video)"

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Exciting, 1s Zero emissions, next goal Zero Fatalities.


Zero is a reasonable goal as long as people realize it will never be realistically achieved. Scientists use “as low as reasonably achievable” (a subjective, but realistically achievable goal) for things like radiation exposure for legitimate reasons: since there are factors you cannot control, approaching zero risk implies costs/hurdles that exceed feasibility, so a choice must be made to decide what is an acceptable risk if the desired activity is to be done at all.

Driving will never be zero risk, but Nissan’s autonomous drive might get us “closer to zero”. Automobiles will never have zero environmental impact, but I think most of us in this forum appreciate that the long tailpipe of EVs is “closer to zero” thank other options.

My employer has set a goal of zero safety incidents. I find it crazy that some folks consider a judgement can be made on zero vs. non-zero. We certainly want to keep it as close to zero as reasonably achievable and by doing what is feasible to improve safety, but if we want it to be exactly zero, none of us should show up for work.

This is sooo in our future. Look at the crash protection products being promoted today on a number of vehicles. I still think the first phase will be limited to under 35 mph zones until the public builds it’s trust. I see this being used first as a valet. Go to the restaurant and have your car park itself. Go to work and send your car to the parking deck or parking lot. Also many accidents happen at intersections and there can be assisted overrides similar to the crash protections currently entering the market. This accomplishes two things. First usage at a safe milage and a recognition that the car truly did it on it’s own when no one is behind the wheel.

I don’t know Mark. I see it first as being able to steer your car on the freeway. That way one could work during the commute.

That is certainly the easiest application. My brother actually made the interstate application his electrical engineering project in 1979! And you are so right with the usefulness. I just see legislation fighting it at high speeds initially. Bottom line, it is coming and Nissan is probably right at 2020. They want be the only ones offering it either. You might even see the first glimpses as early as 2016. I really have never been a car junky before now. There are just so many changes coming and this one certainly is a doozy.

The way I imagined it was (at least initially) allowing cars to drive on surface streets as normal, but on the freeway, the cars would take control. This would greatly reduce traffic jams on the freeways.

As you approached your exit, the car would prompt you to take control as it moved to the slow/exit lane. If the driver didn’t take control, the car would park itself in a safe frontage road location and wait for the driver to wake up/pay attention/etc.

After we got the glitches worked out with that, then we could automate surface street traffic. This would also allow people to more slowly get used to the idea of self-driving vehicles.

It could drive to an inductive charging spot, charge to x%, then move so other cars could use the spot.

Autonomous parking has the advantage that it can park itself accurately to minimize the losses. Although, people would be charging at home and unmanaged inductive workplace charging just adds to the economic and energy inefficiency of the grid.

Tesla and Google should start to work together right now.

I’m going to be a Debbie-downer on this one (sorry). I just don’t see it happening in the next 6.25 years. I’m surprised Nissan didn’t say “in 10 years”. That’s usually a giveaway for, “we don’t know when”.

Just wait till the first one of these situations happens on their test track:

Even if this could cut crashes from 6 million to 600,000, it would be useful.
By 2030, this could bring about the kind of changes Mark H is talking about. Good thing too… by 2030 I’m going to need a car that drives itself!