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Japan eyes driverless cars by early 2020s

Expressways in Japan could start seeing self-driving cars in 10 years, according to discussions by Tokyo and carmakers.

Honda, maker of the reborn Acura NSX, is one of the companies working with the Japanese government on robot cars. Tim Hornyak/CNET

I can't wait for the era of self-driving cars. I can't believe it's 2012 and we still have to turn a steering wheel and push pedals to get around while we could be doing better things like sleeping, reading, or actually watching the scenery roll by instead of the road.

The Japanese government has started talks on the goal of getting self-driving cars on public roads by the early 2020s.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism has said it's the first in the world to seriously consider robot cars for the masses, according to Nikkei Automotive News.

Participating automakers include Nissan, Toyota, Fuji Heavy Industries, Honda, and Mazda. The ministry plans bimonthly talks on the topic.

A major issue that will take up lots of talk time is how to assign responsibility in accidents involving self-driving cars. If there's no human driver, who's to blame?

It's the same debate that's swirling around UAVs that could one day wield lethal force without a human in the loop.

While automakers wouldn't want to take responsibility for self-driving cars in accidents, one option being mooted is companies that would lease automatic cars to drivers, like rental cars.

The robo-wheels could debut on special lanes on expressways in Japan, according to Nikkei.

Note: The caption has been corrected to show that Honda, not Nissan, makes the NSX.

(Via Nikkei Automotive Technology)