Autonomous cars took to the roads of Tokyo for the first time on Saturday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a passenger. The Prime Minister rode on the public roads in the National Diet Front Garden in a Nissan Leaf and autonomous cars built by Honda and Toyota. According to Nissan, Saturday’s drive was meant to show the Japanese government’s support for the development of autonomous cars, as was symbolized by the venue located between Japan's parliament and the Imperial Palace.

Seeing autonomous vehicles as a potential source for the country’s future economic growth, the government has been working closely with the three major Japanese car manufacturers on creating the technology, developing the necessary infrastructure, and addressing legislation to make such cars road legal.

Nissan Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga says, “With the public road demonstration for the Autonomous Drive held in the presence of the Prime Minister, I believe that a great step has been taken towards the realization of Autonomous Drive. Nissan will pursue a safer, more comfortable and environmentally-friendly mobility by further fortifying our cooperative relations with the many government agencies and people involved.”

Having recently unveiled the Autonomous Drive prototype technology at “Nissan 360” in California, Nissan says it expects to have a commercially-viable Autonomous Drive vehicle on the road by 2020 with the technology expected to be available across its model range within two vehicle generations.

The all-electric LEAF, which Nissan says is serving as a base vehicle for the development of its Automated Drive technology and is the first vehicle packing such technology to be granted a license plate in Japan, is equipped with cameras, laser scanners and radar to detect road conditions and identify nearby pedestrians, traffic lights, traffic signs and other objects. The data collected by these various sensors is processed by an on-board computer that controls the automated acceleration, handling and brakes.

To ensure the safety of the technology, a purpose-built proving ground designed to put autonomous vehicles through their paces in extreme situations is being constructed at a Nissan facility in Japan.

Autonomous driving technology will be featured by a number of automakers at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show that kicks off on November 23. Gizmag will be there to check out the latest developments.

The video below shows Prime Minister Abe being driven in a Nissan Leaf.

Source: Nissan

View gallery - 3 images