Nissan to test self-driving cars on London's streets next month

White luxury houses facades in London

We're only a couple of weeks into 2017, but one of the standout technology trends of the year is shaping up to be the sheer pace of driverless car development.

A slew of announcements from carmakers and technology partners at last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas highlighted the growing competition for the autonomous driving spotlight. Now, that focus may be shifting to Europe.

Hot on the heels of Volvo announcing the details of the first family to take part in its self-driving car research project on the streets of Gothenburg in Sweden, Nissan has just revealed that it will begin demonstrating its own autonomous vehicles on London's roads next month.

The carmaker's real-world demonstrations of its autonomous driving technology will take place in a modified Nissan LEAF, and will allow the company to demonstrate its technology to government officials and technical experts.

The demonstrations will be the first time the carmaker's autonomous drive technology has been shown on public roads in Europe, said Nissan. 

The news follows the company's announcement of several new technologies and partnerships at CES, including a technology that will combine in-car artificial intelligence with human support, to help driverless cars decide what to do in unpredictable situations.

Nissan also announced in Las Vegas that it will soon launch a new LEAF model featuring single-lane autonomous driving capabilities for motorway driving.

Nissan's 'Seamless Autonomous Mobility' technology promises to help cars navigate unforeseen situations on city streets

Nissan's 'Seamless Autonomous Mobility' technology promises to help cars navigate unforeseen situations on city streets

UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark, on a visit to the Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE), the carmaker's European R&D hub in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, said: "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. 

"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." 

NTCE, home to around 1,200 employees, is focused on developing autonomous drive technologies as well as new advanced fuel, energy and efficiency technologies. 

Its current projects include the development of vehicle-to-grid technology integration – likely to become a vital part of the infrastructure required for driverless cars to take to the streets safely and efficiently.

Workers at the centre are also developing the carmaker's new Qashqai model, which will also offer drivers autonomous drive functionality for single-lane driving on motorways when it launches.

“In just a few weeks’ time, there will be Nissan LEAFs driving on the streets of London using our autonomous driving technology," said Paul Willcox, Chairman of Nissan Europe. 

"Nissan Intelligent Mobility is happening right now, right here in the UK and across Europe.”