Nissan has already been testing autonomous vehicles in the US (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan said it will have available several "commercially viable" autonomous vehicles by 2020. Prices will be "realistic" and the company's stated goal isto have autonomous vehicles across its model range. It wants to achieve that in the course of two model generations.

"I am committing to be ready to introduce a new ground-breaking technology, autonomous drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it," Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a statement.

Nissan is building a dedicated autonomous proving ground in Japan to be completed in 2014. The test track will be used to ensure the new technologies are safe.

Nissan's announcement is in line with general expectations that autonomous driving will become a feature of automotive mobility by the end of the decade. Audi also has confirmed this target date.

Autonomous driving will address one of the biggest causes of traffic accidents: human error, Nissan said. In the US alone, 93 pc of all accidents result from human error, most often as a result of inattention, the company noted.

The Japanese carmaker was one of the first to introduce a fully battery-powered electric vehicle when it launched the Nissan Leaf in 2010. Ghosn said the autonomous-driving goal is in line with the brand's desire to introduce new ground-breaking technologies.

Nissan's autonomous driving technology builds on its so-called Safety Shield, which monitors a 360-degree area around a vehicle for risks. The system can offer warnings to the driver and takes action if necessary. Nissan's autonomous vehicles won't have to rely on external data, but will have all the necessary technology on board.