Self-driving cars, the latest fuel-cell technology and a concept vehicle with tablet-style touch screens aimed at the digital generation were among the innovations on display at the Tokyo Motor Show Wednesday.
Nissan unveiled an autonomous electric vehicle that it said would "revolutionize the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility," while Volkswagen shifted into damage control with another apology for an emissions scandal that has rocked the auto industry.
The biennial motor show's 44th edition, which runs until November 8, features 160 exhibitors from a dozen countries including foreign automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Peugeot Citroen, Porsche and Jaguar.
It starts a week after Honda said it would put a commercialized self-driving car on the road by 2020, as automakers bet on vehicles that can drive and, in some cases, park themselves.
Its bigger rival Toyota plans to roll out an autonomous car by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.
Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said it was on track to put the self-driving technology in multiple vehicles by 2020. The company aims to put an experimental automated car on Japan's highways as soon as next year.
"It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 percent of all car accidents," Ghosn told reporters.
"As a result, time spent behind the wheel is safer, cleaner, more efficient and more fun."
Google has been testing self-driving cars in Silicon Valley, as have US-based Tesla and General Motors.
But the technology is far from perfect and is widely seen as limited in the short term to highway driving rather than urban traffic jams.
Japan's auto giants will also be showing off their latest concept cars including Toyota's Kikai.
The eye-popping vehicle conjures up images of the Terminator films with parts of its underbelly -- including fuel tank and hoses -- exposed, giving an inside look at the car's machinery.