Nissan Autonomous Leaf

Things appear to be going well inside Nissan's autonomous vehicle development program. Until now, the automaker believed that self-driving cars would be ready for major markets like the US by 2020. However, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is now speeding up that prediction to 2018 in some places, assuming that local laws are ready to accept the computer-controlled vehicles.

"The problem isn't technology, it's legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around," said Ghosn in a speech in France recorded by Reuters. He predicted that the first sales could begin in France, Japan and the US by 2018 and expand elsewhere in 2020.

The alliance has been among the forefront of automakers working on self-driving cars. Nissan has an autonomous Leaf (pictured above) test car that is licensed to drive on Japanese roads. Renault showed off an version of its Zoe EV earlier this year called the Next Two, that could pilot itself at speeds up to 18 miles per hour, and that the company predicted would be ready by 2020.

Governments are still deciding how to treat the new technology, though. The California DMV just released a detailed list of rules governing autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. It seems astonishing that the nation could be just four years away from the first self-driving cars finding their way to consumers.