Lots of details to work out, including price, specs, and legalities (still unclear who would be responsible in the event of an accident). Nonetheless, the interest by Nissan, GM, and Google would seem to affirm the inevitability of autonomous vehicles within a few years (Google is pushing for a 2017 roll-out). Nissan has been expanding its Silicon Valley research and development operations, presumably to focus on the new technology. Would be nice to see city officials take some sort of interest in this new kind of transportation, which will be a reality before you know it. The Silicon Valley Business Journal looks at Nissan's version:
Under the direction of NASA veteran Maarten Sierhuis, a growing team of engineers is working on creating autonomous vehicle algorithms focused on increasing safety and productivity. Within the next three years, the company hopes to have 60 researchers on board to help develop self-driving cars, plus auto information and entertainment systems requiring web connectivity. I stopped by the new Sunnyvale office to try out the company's drive simulator, where an electric car is hooked up to several computers and a large, circular screen. Once inside the simulator, researchers can test autonomous vehicle algorithms by adding impediments like strong winds or sudden obstacles to see how the computer operating the car responds. That's an important first step before much more costly -- and much more dangerous -- testing on the road, according to Greg Dibb, senior manager of strategy and operations at the Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley.
The company's approach involves laser scanners, "Around View" cameras, artificial intelligence, and actuators. As with Google's approach, Nissan is building the necessary smarts completely within the vehicle so that external data sources aren't required. Nissan has been working with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Tokyo on the approach. Nissan has been testing its autonomous-driving technology in its Leaf electric vehicle, gearing it to handle complex, real-world situations. To test it, Nissan is building an autonomous-driving proving ground in Japan, complete with real-world features such as buildings. It's scheduled to be completed by the end of the company's fiscal year 2014.