Nissan Unveils Impressive Autonomous Car

Renault-Nissan (OTC: NSANY) and Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) have unveiled impressive new technology that is raising the stakes in the autonomous car wars.

Ford has created something called Active Speed Limiter, which can actually read road signs, according to Reuters. The feature, unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show, is currently available on Ford’s European models, but not in North America, where road signs are not standardized.

Nissan’s Alliance prototype features an Intelligent Driving solution that can navigate intersections and tell the difference between a red light and a white light, The Economic Times reported. That means it could theoretically tell the difference between headlights and a tail light.

The Intelligent Driving system might also be able to tell red lights from green lights and read lanes. It still has a very hard time recognizing poorly drawn road markings.

Nissan autonomous car

Intelligent Driving

The Alliance, which is scheduled to reach dealerships in 2020, is a pretty impressive vehicle. Among other things, it could be a zero emission car with a 500-mile range. The earliest version of Intelligent Driving, called Pilot Drive 1.0, which sounds similar to the Tesla Autopilot, will be available in Japan by the end of next year. An upgraded version capable of changing lanes on the freeway could be available by 2018.

Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are all planning to bring out self-driving cars by 2020 in time for the Tokyo Olympics, Reuters reported. They hope to have cars that can drive in city traffic by that year.

A number of reporters took a ride in the Alliance in Japan, where it is being tested. Among other things, they reported that it is the first self-driving car that can drive safely on both city streets and freeways.

Ford's self-driving Fusion is a real car unlike Google's toy.

Ford’s self-driving Fusion is a real car unlike Google’s toy.

It sounds as if Nissan has an impressive lead in some aspects of this technology. One has to wonder how long it will be before it is at dealerships in the United States.

Some companies have even more ambitious plans. Daimler (OTC: DDAIY) is marketing a truck with some self-driving capabilities in Germany, and a Tokyo startup has plans to deploy 3,000 autonomous taxis that can be summoned by an Uber-style app in the Japanese capital. It is unclear if the technology to make that possible exists yet, but it soon could.

One has to wonder how the public and cab drivers will react to that. Given the Uber riots in Paris, it’s likely it will lead to violence or civil disobedience.

Like it or not, the age of the self-driving car is here. One has to wonder which one of the world’s automotive giants will dominate it and which will fall by the wayside.