26 November 2013

A Nissan LEAF electric car has become the first car to test autonomous driving on a stretch of Japanese motorway.

Nissan took a model of its fully-electric supermini to the Sagami Expressway in the Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, to trial new driverless technology that allows the car to effectively drive itself.

Kanagawa prefecture governor Yuji Kuroiwa and Nissan Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga were on-board during the test, with journalist gathered to witness the trial and later try the car out on the expressway themselves.

Based on the normal production Nissan LEAF, the autonomous model features cameras and lasers to read road signs, identify obstacles such as pedestrians in the road, merge into traffic, change lanes and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.

Nissan’s Autonomous Drive technology automatically operates the car’s main controls, including steering, braking and acceleration.

“Nissan seeks a safer, more comfortable and environmentally-friendly mobile future,” said Shiga, vice chairman of Nissan. “Through these tests on an expressway, we hope to further advance our technological development, with the goal of soon implementing Autonomous Drive vehicles. When starting a new project, serious effort is required to gain an understanding of all the variables involved. We were able to conduct this important testing on the Sagami Expressway thanks to the strong support from Kanagawa Prefecture.”

Only recently tested on public roads for the first time earlier this month, the Nissan LEAF Autonomous Drive has already had an important guest on board, trusting its revolutionary, driverless tech; Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Nissan hopes to have commercially-viable driverless vehicles ready by 2020.

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