Ghosn predicts self-driving cars could hit roads in 2018

Several carmakers and suppliers are working to bring automated driving systems to the market in the next few years.

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PARIS (Reuters) -- Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn predicts that cars that drive themselves could be on the roads four years from now, provided red tape does not get in the way.

"The problem isn't technology, it's legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around ... and especially who is responsible once there is no longer anyone inside," Ghosn said at a French Automobile Club event on Tuesday.

The first cars could hit the roads in 2018 in the "pioneer countries" of France, Japan and the United States, with commercialization starting across Europe in 2020, the CEO said.

Carmakers including Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have been working on autonomous vehicles, while technology giant Google is developing its own fleet of self-driving vehicle prototypes, Automotive News Europe reported on May 28.

In August, a self-driving Mercedes-Benz S class drove 125kms (77 miles) through Germany without any driver input.

Renault has created the Next 2 prototype version of its electric Zoe model which enables drivers to let go of the controls at speeds below 30 kilometers per hour thanks to GPS positioning, cameras and sensors, though a human must stay behind the wheel.

Amending the rules

An amendment to United Nations rules agreed earlier this year would let drivers take their hands off the wheel of self-driving cars. The change was pushed by Germany, Italy and France, whose high-end carmakers believe they are ready to zoom past U.S. tech pioneers to bring the first vehicles to market.

Provided the amendment clears all bureaucratic hurdles, it would allow a car to drive itself, as long as the system "can be overridden or switched off by the driver." A driver must be present and able to take the wheel at any time.

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