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Nissan will test a range of autonomous technologies in coming years (Photo: Nissan)

Nisssan has started testing its autonomous-driving technology on highways and urban roads in Japan.

The carmaker wants to launch what it calls "Piloted Drive 1.0" by the end of 2016. The technology allows autonomous driving in heavy highway traffic conditions.

In a second step, Nissans equipped with Piloted Drive will be able to change lanes autonomously by 2018. And two years later, according to the roadmap, the technology should allow vehicles to cross intersections independently.

The prototype vehicle Nissan launched last week is based on its electric Leaf model. It is equipped with a millimeter wave radar, laser scanners, cameras, high-speed computer chips, and a specially tailored HMI. It also features an 8-way 360-degree view camera system, which helps improve routing decisions.

The car is tested on Japanese roads, but the carmaker wants to conduct similar trials in other markets.

Nissan Senior Vice President Takao Asami said in a press statement that the prototype underscores that the company is getting closer to marketing a piloted-drive vehicle. Said the Nissan executive: "We plan on leading the industry in the implementation of piloted drive."