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Nissan To Test Self Driving Cars In London Next Month

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Sign of the times. Modified Nissan Leaf to be driven on crowded public streets in London next month

Nissan is to use one of the most heavily congested cities in the world to demonstrate its self driving cars.

From next month, on-road demonstrations will begin in London using modified Nissan Qashqai and LEAF models, in order to show off its autonomous driving technology.

And it seems that passengers, including government officials and technical and safety experts, will be able to “experience autonomous driving on public roads.”

nissanleaftopLondon Calling

News of the London testing of self driving cars came during a visit to Nissan’s European R&D headquarters in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, by UK Secretary of State Greg Clark, in which he discussed future technology rollouts in the UK car industry.

Choosing a heavily congested city like London for the demonstration is an interesting choice. Car makers tend to prefer testing their technology in much more advanced road networks such as those found in Milton Keynes.

The testing of fully autonomous cars on public roads has already been carried out in Greenwich and there has been no word yet on whether the London roads will be closed to other road users during the trials.

“These will be the first demonstrations of Nissan’s autonomous drive technology on public roads in Europe, representing the next step in Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility blueprint for transforming how cars are driven, powered, and integrated into wider society,” said the car maker.

And self driving cars may be closer than most people think.

It has already been announced for example that the new Qashqai and the new LEAF (Nissan’s electric car) will be equipped with autonomous driving technology to enable single lane autonomous driving on motorways.

“Government and industry are working together to build on our world class reputation for excellence as a leading location for automotive R&D and manufacturing,” said Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark.

Bedfordshire Expertise

“We want to see centres, like Nissan’s here in Cranfield, continue to develop, making us a world leader in the development and testing of auto technology so we can anchor the next generation of vehicle manufacturing and its supply chain here in the UK,” he said.

The Nissan Technical Centre in Cranfield was opened back in 1991 and is now home to around 1,200 employees. It operates as the company’s European centre of excellence for the design and development of vehicles produced in the UK and across Europe.

The Cranfield site is helped by the fact that the Millbrook Proving Ground, where cars can undergo all forms of advanced testing, is located just a few miles away.

“It was our pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State to the Nissan Technical Centre Europe in Cranfield and to show him how we don’t just make great cars in the UK, we create future technology here too,” said Paul Willcox, Chairman, Nissan Europe.

“We’ve been developing that pioneering spirit for over half a century in Europe and for over 30 years in Britain,” he added. “With future models secured and cutting-edge innovation being developed right here in the UK, we’re looking forward to a strong future of designing, engineering and manufacturing in the country for customers right across the world.”

“In just a few weeks’ time, there will be Nissan LEAFs driving on the streets of London using our autonomous driving technology,” he added.

There is little doubting Nissan’s importance to the UK economy. Indeed, one in three cars built in the UK is a Nissan, and 80 percent of these are exported to foreign markets.

In 2015 KPMG said that connected and autonomous cars will create 320,000 UK jobs and save thousands of lives. Indeed, the firm’s “comprehensive analysis” found that the vehicles will deliver a staggering £51 billion boost to the UK economy.

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