Aug. 27, 2013 at 4:12 PM ET
Look, ma, no hands!
Nissan, the sixth-largest automaker in the United States, announced Tuesday it will sell a self-driven car by 2020.
The company outlined its plans before a gathering of reporters from around the world meeting at a Nissan press event in Irvine, Calif.
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was scheduled to brief reporters, but unexpectedly canceled at the last moment. Nissan executives gave no reason for the cancellation.
However, Ghosn said in a statement: "In 2007 I pledged that—by 2010—Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Today, the Nissan LEAF is the best-selling electric vehicle in history.
"Now 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."
Instead of Ghosn, a group of senior Nissan executives outlined the technology of the Nissan 360 program to reporters.
(Read more: US automakers fall further behind foreign brands)
Nissan said it is working with several universities around the world including Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Oxford and the University of Tokyo to develop the technology for self-driven cars.
At this point, the company is not collaborating with Google, which has received worldwide attention for its work on autonomous driven vehicles, including the so-called "Google car."
(Read more: America's best drivers: Go West, says study)
Nissan is building a test track in Japan specially designed to replicate the challenges self-driven cars will face in real world conditions. The company is estimating the cost of adding autonomous driven technology to a luxury sedan will only be $1,000.
Nissan is not the only automaker racing to build and sell self-driven cars: Ford, General Motors and Toyota are also developing technology that would allow cars to steer, brake and accelerate with little or no involvement with the driver.
(Read more: Does Nissan risk losing business in 'Datsun' move?)
A handful of states have already passed laws establishing guidelines for testing autonomous-driven vehicles in real world conditions.
Still, few expect self-driven cars to roll out in big numbers in the near future.
While Ghosn canceled his appearance in Irvine, he did issue a statement about developing autonomous driven vehicles: "In 2007 I pledged that—by 2010—Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Today, the Nissan LEAF is the best-selling electric vehicle in history. Now 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."
—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.
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