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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Months Ago
      One problem I could see with these is that if it's involved in an accident, wouldn't the manufacturer be potentially liable? If so, I could say any and every manufacturer being mired in lawsuits. That being said, with greater adoption and development, accidents should become more and more rare.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 6 Months Ago
        You will still have to carry insurance, it's just that it will be lower because car makes less mistakes than people do.
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          That doesn't have anything to do with what I'm saying... If the car is involved in an accident that is deemed that isn't the other driver's/car fault, then it would seem to me that it would be reasonable to blame the manufacturer of the car (assuming it was properly maintained). If that's the case, the manufacturer would be open to a slew of wrongful death and injury lawsuits. Unless the lawmakers get ahead of this and come up with guidelines, I wouldn't want to open my company up to that sort of risk. The driver's insurance wouldn't come into play if it's not the driver's fault. The person who is at fault typically pays (either directly or through their insurance).
      Jaclock LaGlock
      • 6 Months Ago
      Bah. The world is getting lazier. I'll keep my hands and feet on the controls, thank you.
      • 6 Months Ago
      My God... Those ugly as sin headlights. KILL IT WITH FIRE!
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 6 Months Ago
      Wow that Leaf looks like a doofus
      • 6 Months Ago
      Clearly an advantage. Now when you're drunk, your car won't swerve down the road anymore. Imagine the improved opportunities for the application of eye makeup, reading the newspaper and texting, all things I've seen people do while ostensibly in control of a vehicle on the highway. The only saving grace is that this will truly be an improvement for many drivers.
      • 6 Months Ago
      @ 1:10:50 Tesla Motors Annual Sharholders Meeting June 2014: Autopilot update: "Within 1 year, you should be able to go from Highway On-ramp, to Highway Off-Ramp... without touching the controls"
      • 6 Months Ago
      The problem is mostly one of technology though... the law will follow when the automakers have a car that works. Even google's only works in good conditions. no show, no fog, no light flooding. and dependent on bulky external laser scanners.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I wonder if Carlos will even be with the company in 2018. He has been thinking about retirement.
        Julio B
        • 6 Months Ago
        I hope so, he has been named the savior of Nissan.
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