Look, Okaasan, no hands!
Look, Okaasan, no hands!

Japanese auto maker Nissan has joined Google in publicly pledging to develop self-driving cars over the next few years. Nissan will build a proving ground by 2014 to test its autonomous vehicle systems and aims to bring “multiple affordable, energy efficient, fully autonomous-driving vehicles to the market by 2020,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“Most of the technology solutions are in sight. The challenge is not … the technology,” said Executive Vice President Andy Palmer in a presentation yesterday in Southern California. “The big step is the regulatory framework.”

One of the biggest selling points of self-driving cars is the prospect of fewer driver-caused accidents. Ironically, a major barrier to the widespread use of the autonomous autos is sorting out who would be liable if one does get in an accident.

Is anyone in Virginia paying attention?  Has anyone given the slightest thought to whether self-driving cars are even a good idea… whether roads and highways need to be redesigned to accommodate them… or what the impact might be on travel patterns? Has anyone considered how driverless cars might affect demand for major highway and rail projects now on the books? Are we investing billions of dollars in transportation infrastructure today that might prove obsolete by 2020?

If anyone in Virginia is asking these questions, they are keeping their thoughts to themselves. It is within our power to lead the pack, but we will most likely end up following the herd. Baah! baah!


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2 responses to “Auto Revolution Update: Nissan”

  1. Breckinridge Avatar


    I dunno. You could ask these people. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are on top of some of this. It’s a pretty major research endeavor at Tech.

  2. Call me a heavy skeptic. Autonomous vehicle navigation and operation is in it’s infancy.

    I cannot imagine putting one of them on the Washington Beltway – ever.

    but the OTHER THING this points up – once again – is how important education is in our country. It will require young people of substantial education and skills to slay this technological dragon.

    One of the things that fascinates me is a course in our local schools that makes the entire class responsible for building some kind of a robot that does something useful.

    It’s a tremendous challenge not only in understanding technology but in working with others collaboratively to achieve a significant accomplishment.

    Not all kids are yet up to the task but it’s an eye-opening experience for all of them – in understanding – just how much more they need to learn to become competent at such 21st century tasks.

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