Nissan's autonomous cars could drive in US first, maybe by 2020

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Future shock could be just six short years away, and coming first to the US. Nissan says it might start making autonomous versions of its cars available in the US by 2020, before the tech hits the road in other countries. The Japanese automaker is in extensive discussions with regulators from California, the best-selling state for the Leaf battery-electric vehicle, for allowing self-driving vehicles to be on its roads, Hybrid Cars says, citing a conversation with Nissan executive Andy Christensen at the recent Detroit Auto Show.

Many decisions need to be made between now and then, given the hurdles related to issues such as regulations, liability, safety and technology - and Christensen said the first wave of self-driving vehicles would be able to do their thing only on the highway. The vehicle of choice is most likely to be the Leaf because it's completely battery operated, making the conversion to autonomy that much easier.

Last summer, Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn first promised production autonomous cars by 2020. The automaker has teamed up with MIT, Stanford, Oxford and others to extensively test its "Autonomous Drive" concepts since then. Late last year, Nissan tested a self-driving Leaf on Japanese public roads. Nissan is not alone promoting autonomous driving as a way to increase safety, fuel economy and traffic flow, just some of the reasons why the idea may be the wave of the nearer-than-we-thought-future. For example, the company says 93 percent of accidents are caused by driver error.

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