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Five lasers and five cameras help Nissan LEAF drive itself into demo at CEATEC in Japan

This very special Nissan LEAF is a poster car for the company's pledge to bring autonomous vehicles to market by 2020.

Put five lasers and five cameras in a Nissan LEAF, and what do you get? A car that can drive itself into an expo hall, as Nissan demonstrated its autonomous-car technology at CEATEC in Yokohama, Japan. That's Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in the photograph above, no hands on the wheel. The Japanese automaker promised to deliver a commercially viable version of the tech in cars by the year 2020. (What is it about that year 2020, anyway? Every future advancement known to man seems projected to occur then.)

Most long-term plans for autonomous cars involve at least some form of infrastructure investment. A recently completed study held in Ann Arbor, Michigan used test cars that communicate with each other over a dedicated radio band. In Nissan's demonstration, the cameras and lasers monitor the surroundings.

Nissan first started talking about sensors for monitoring other cars as part of its Safety Shield technology, way back in 2004. In vehicles like the 2014 Nissan Altima, you can already find Moving Object Detection (MOD) sensors to warn you, at speeds below 5 miles per hour, about an approaching car. The 2014 Chevy Impala has similar crash-detection sensors.

According to Japan Daily Press, this test pitted a driverless Nissan Leaf against a car with a human driver, showcasing the artificial intelligence in the autonomous-car tech that can predict the path of a nearby vehicle. Nissan claims the AI can react much faster than any human driver.

Could robocars really think for us? Nissan says the tech can work in an intersection without stoplights, where you normally have to make eye contact with the other driver. Whether the thinking car of the future can spot a live animal jumping into the road, or a swerving semi-trailer, is something we might have to wait a few years to find out. Probably until 2020.


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