Nissan's Carlos Ghosn taps the brakes on autonomous car progress

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"Self-driving cars remain a long way from commercial reality."

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn shocked the automotive industry last year when he announced that his company plans to offer consumers an autonomous car by 2020. The automaker even showed off its self-driving Leaf prototype as proof. He was bolder recently with the pronouncement that select markets could have them in 2018, if laws allowed. The boss' optimism appears to be waning, though, and he's now sounding a lot more conservative about the future. While driverless vehicles are still on the way, Ghosn is hedging his bets with a more gradual implementation of several systems.

During a speech in Japan, Ghosn laid out Nissan's new roadmap toward autonomous driving. Instead of plunking down a complete vehicle in 2020, the new plan has a rollout with waves of innovations. According to Automotive News, the first milestone comes by the end of 2016 with the introduction of traffic-jam assist and fully automated parking. In 2018, some models get automatic lane changing, and finally around 2020, another feature will allow cars to handle intersections without driver inputs. All of this new tech still requires someone at the controls for most of the time.

"Self-driving cars remain a long way from commercial reality," Ghosn said in his speech, according to AN.

The latest announcement isn't quite the driving utopia that Ghosn alluded to last year. At the time, he said: "I am committing to be ready to introduce a new groundbreaking technology, Autonomous Drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it." Evidently, that plan may have gone a little off the rails.

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