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Nissan Developing Driverless Cars In Sunnyvale

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A Google driverless car operating on a testing path. (Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons)

A Google driverless car operating on a testing path. (Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons)

SUNNYVALE (CBS SF) — Scientists at Nissan’s new research facility in Sunnyvale are working to put affordable driverless cars on U.S. roadways.

Dr. Maarten Sierhuis, a former NASA scientist now heading Nissan’s research center said he wants to do for earth what NASA did for outer space.

“When the car can decide where to get off, make the lane change itself, and decide where to park and how to park, at that point you have a car that drives itself like a human drives,” explained Sierhuis.

Nissan hopes to put driverless cars on U.S. roads in under seven years.

“We will definitely see a big leap between what we have today to what we will have by 2020,” said Sierhuis.

So, where does that leave drivers?

“That will leave people a lot of free time to do other things that they will typically do at home or on their phones when they’re not driving,” said Dr. Alex Bayen, a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley.

Bayen said driverless cars are the ultimate mobile device, and marketers know it.

“Time, spent in the car, is one of the few pieces of time that is still free for the private sector to grab,” explained Bayen.

An annual study of commuter driving habits found how U.S. commuters wasted more than 5.5 billion hours stuck in traffic: imagine spending all that time surfing the web, buying stuff or watching billions of ads – - all in the privacy of your own car.

All that traffic can’t be blamed on the cars.  What snarls traffic are all the poorly trained drivers.

“If people were paying attention, traffic would be much better,” explained Noco Rondet, professional race car driver and instructor at Simraceway at the Sonoma Raceway.

Google’s driverless cars have already logged hundreds of thousands of miles without incident.

California DMV is currently investigating how to regulate driverless cars.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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