Partially automated Nissan Leaf prototype approved for use on Japanese roads

Looking forward to Nissan's 2020 autonomous vehicle push? Then get pumped: the company has just been given approval to test some of its automated driving systems on Japanese streets. Nissan has been issued a license plate to use with a Nissan Leaf kitted out with the firm's Advanced Driver Assist System on, which will allow the vehicle to change lanes, pass cars, exit freeways and cruise down the road without driver assistance. Although the plate is technically just a normal license plate (unlike the distinctive red plates Nevada issues to automated vehicles), but marks the first time Nissan will be able to test these features on a public road. More importantly, the company says, it allows it to further develop the technologies that will eventually go into its fully automated vehicles. It's a baby step, but at least it's progress. Check out the company's official announcement at the jump.

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Nissan Leaf with Highly Advanced Driver Assist System Gets First License Plate for Public Road Testing in Japan

First time a vehicle featuring Advanced Driver Assist System will be tested on Japanese roads
Real-world testing critical as Nissan pushes ahead with development of revolutionary Autonomous Drive to meet 2020 vision
YOKOHAMA, Japan – Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn today took delivery of Japan's first license plate for a car equipped with highly advanced driver assist systems. It clears the way for a Nissan LEAF equipped with the technology to be tested on the public roads in Japan for the first time. The research program will accelerate the development of technologies fundamental to Autonomous Drive. The systems are designed to allow the driver to manually take over control at any time.

The license plate includes the number 2020, which reflects Nissan's goal to be ready with multiple, commercially viable Autonomous Drive vehicles by the year 2020.

"This is an ordinary license plate for an extraordinary vehicle," said Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn. "A month ago we revealed to the world our 2020 Autonomous Drive target. Road testing of the underlying technologies is critical to maintaining our leadership position and we are grateful to the Government of Japan for its support."

The Nissan LEAF to be tested is capable of a number of functions, including:

Lane keeping
Automatic Exit
Automatic lane change
Automatic overtaking slower or stopped vehicles
Automatic deceleration behind congestion on freeways
Automatic stopping at red lights
Nissan is developing Autonomous Drive as it works to achieve virtually zero fatalities in accidents involving its vehicles. The goal stands alongside zero emissions as a key pillar of Nissan's research and development. Autonomous Drive is an extension of the Nissan Safety Shield, which monitors a 360-degree view around vehicles for risks, gives warnings to the driver, and automatically intervenes if necessary. Work is already underway to build a dedicated Autonomous Drive proving ground in Nissan's facility in Oppama, Japan.