The race to bring autonomous driving to public roads by 2020 is definitely on. It’s been established that Nissan has already joined this proverbial arms race. Now, the Japanese automaker is moving to the next step of its development with the unveiling of its latest prototype, a Nissan Leaf fitted with a new technology called Piloted Drive 1.0.

According to Nissan, the Piloted Drive 1.0 technology has been designed to make occupants of its autonomous vehicle feel as if they were being driven around by a “skilled driver.” Vague as that sounds, the technology, dubbed “Nissan Intelligent Driving,” is being complemented by an array of sensors installed throughout the new Leaf prototype. All in all, the car has 12 cameras, five radar sensors, four laser scanners, and ultra sonic sensors spread all over the vehicle.

How these cameras and sensors will come into play on Nissan’s autonomous vehicle is still unclear, but it is worth noting that Tetsuya Iijima, general manager of Nissan’s advanced driver assist systems strategy and engineering division, hinted that the technology being developed on the Leaf prototypes will eventually be used for mass production. If that isn’t a sign of things to come, then maybe the Japanese automaker’s plan to reveal a new concept model at the Tokyo Motor Show, one that will prominently showcase the company’s goal of marrying “car intelligence” and “electrification,” is the kind of validation that Nissan’s looking for to show that it’s serious about becoming a big player in the race to bring autonomous driving into public roads.

In the nearer future, Nissan said that it’s on schedule to debut two new technologies: a traffic-jam pilot and an automatic parking system by the end of 2016. That will be followed by an automatic lane-changing feature in 2018, a few years before its promise to launch a fully functioning autonomous vehicle.

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Why it matters

I’m not the type to be able to hide my feelings about the prospect of autonomous driving so I’ll just lay it out in the open. I’m over the moon excited about this technology becoming a reality in not-too-distant future. I also admit to having my own hang-ups on what it can and can’t do. Thankfully, there’s a company like Nissan that’s already invested time, money, and resources in the development of the technology. Based on what it says the Piloted Driving 1.0 system can do, I’m looking forward to actually seeing it applied in the real world when it goes on sale in Japan by the end of 2016.

So far, Nissan claims that the Piloted Driving 1.0 system fitted into the new Leaf prototypes allow autonomous driving in heavy highway traffic. That’s about as controlled an environment as you can have on the road given how slow cars are moving. But then again, baby steps! The system itself works through a high-spec laser scanner that Nissan itself developed. The scanner is capable of determining the distance between vehicles, allowing the car to weave through tight spaces on its own.

In addition to the Piloted Driving 1.0 system, Leaf protos has also been fitted with a Manual Drive mode, a heads-up display, and a center cluster that shows a bird’s eye view of the car and its surroundings, and most importantly, an eight-way, 360-degree view camera system that gives out precise routing information through intersections and curves.

Look for these new technologies, and quite possibly, the Leaf prototypes themselves, to be on full display at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf High Resolution Exterior
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Read more about the Nissan Leaf here.

Source: Automotive News

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