IRVINE, Calif. – Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. announced the company will be ready with multiple, commercially-viable Autonomous Drive vehicles by 2020. Nissan officials said the company's engineers have been carrying out intensive research on the technology for years, alongside teams from the world's top universities, including MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Tokyo.

Work is already underway in Japan to build a dedicated autonomous driving testing ground, to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2014. Featuring real townscapes — masonry not mock-ups — it will be used to push vehicle testing beyond the limits possible on public roads to ensure the technology is safe.

Nissan's autonomous driving will be achieved at realistic prices for consumers, officials said. The goal is availability across the model range within two vehicle generations.

"Nissan Motor Company's willingness to question conventional thinking and to drive progress — is what sets us apart," said CEO Carlos Ghosn. "In 2007, I pledged that by 2010 Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Now I am committing to be ready to introduce a new ground-breaking technology, Autonomous Drive by 2020, and we are on track to realize it."

Nissan is demonstrating the breadth of the capability of its autonomous drive technology for the first time at Nissan 360, a test drive and stakeholder interaction event being held in Southern California. Laser scanners, Around View Monitor cameras, as well as advanced artificial intelligence and actuators, have been installed in Nissan LEAFs to enable them to negotiate complex real-world driving scenarios.

Nissan's autonomous driving technology is an extension of its Safety Shield, which monitors a 360-degree view around a vehicle for risks, offers warnings to the driver and takes action if necessary. It is based on the philosophy that everything required should be on board the vehicle, rather than relying on detailed external data. The technology being demonstrated at Nissan 360 means the car could drive autonomously on a highway — sticking to or changing lanes and avoiding collisions — without a map. It can also be integrated with a standard in-car navigation system so the vehicle knows which turns to take to reach its destination.