The Wall Street Journal reports that Nissan Motor Co.'s self-driving version of its electric Leaf car made its first foray onto public roads.

The Leaf drove on Japan’s Sagami Expressway in Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo. Nissan vice chairman Toshiyuki Shiga and the prefecture’s Governor, Yuji Kuroiwa, rode in the car during the test, which marked a major step toward Nissan’s goal of selling self-driving cars to consumers by 2020.

Nissan's guidance system, called Autonomous Drive, senses road conditions and operates the car’s steering, acceleration and braking as it merges into traffic, changes lanes and makes adjustments to keep a safe distance from other vehicles.

Major auto makers are racing to secure the prestige of being the first-to-market with a 'self-driving' car and it's becoming a race for the private sector to fine-tune the engineering of the vehicle and for the public sector to modify current laws and fully incorporate 'self-driving' vehicles into all legal, regulatory and safety considerations.

WSJ noted that the bigger step might be getting today’s drivers to accept the self-driving vehicles enough to put one's life in their mechanical hands. Indeed, the technology allowing cars to drive themselves has essentially been in place for years, waiting for motorist culture to catch up.

Many car makers have experimented with autonomous passenger vehicles in part as a way to increase safety and efficiency. Technology company Google has a fleet of self-driving cars that have been on the road for years. Some safety experts have long said our highways would be much safer if cars drove themselves, cutting the chance of human error.

Knowing what you know today, would you be willing to give it a try? Certainly it's one thing to sit behind the steering wheel, ready at a moment's notice to override the self-driving functions, and take over at times of high anxiety.

But it's another thing altogether to be in the passenger seat. Could you do that? I'm not that brave.