Even as recent incidents involving Tesla’s elf-driving cars have sparked debates about the viability and safety of autonomous driving, Nissan has announced its own version of the technology. Dubbed Pro Pilot, the Japanese carmaker’s autonomous drive technology will see its first practical implementation in the new Serena family van that’s scheduled to go on sale in Japan late August.
The technology, which Nissan says will be offered in the Qashqai crossover in Europe next year, and later in other vehicles in the US and China, uses advanced image-processing technology to gauge road and traffic situations and execute precise steering, acceleration and braking inputs. The system, which can be easily activated and deactivated by pressing a switch on the steering wheel, automatically controls the distance between the vehicle and the one in front, using a speed preset by the driver, as long as it’s between 30kph and 100kph, also keeps the car in the middle of the highway lane by reading lane markers and controlling the steering accordingly, even along curves. It can apply brakes to bring the car to a complete stop when necessary, and start back on with just a prod of the accelerator pedal or a press of the steering-mounted activation button.
Although this is a technology we’ve already seen in cars like the Mercedes S-Class and the Volvo XC 90, this is the first time a Japanese carmaker is employing the tech in a mainstream model. The carmaker is already carrying out studies of driving conditions in various regions across the world, to make sure that Pro Pilot will work well under existing conditions in all the markets in which it will be launched. Nissan says the project is part of its corporate vision of “Zero Emissions” and “Zero Fatalities” through advancement of vehicle intelligence and vehicle electrification. While the technology being implemented now is strictly restricted to a single lane, multi-lane autonomous driving technology that enables lane changes on highways is apparently planned for introduction in 2018 while one capable of handling urban roads and intersections is planned for launch in 2020.