Nissan debuts a new autonomous system for Japan with plans to bring it to the U.S. in the future

Japan-based manufacturer Nissan has announced that its newest minivan, the Serena, will be the first vehicle in its stable to feature an autonomous drive system known as ProPILOT. The system is designed to be used in single-lane traffic at first, with automatic lane changing being a feature that will come in the near future. The system is said to use “advanced image-processing technology” and is supposed to be extremely user-friendly.

The system will control acceleration, braking, and steering when engaged, all based on information taken in through the car’s mono camera. Apparently, the system can recognize objects and lane markers in three-dimensional depth. According to Nissan’s press release, the system will keep a specific distance away from any vehicle in front of it, while keeping a consistent speed that can be set anywhere between 18 mph and about 62 mph. As you can see, the system is more suited for congested roadways and slower moving traffic, but according to Nissan, there will be additional functionality added to the system at a later time.

For those concerned with the safety of the system – especially with the number of Tesla vehicles smashing themselves lately – the ProPILOT system is designed to make sure the driver keeps his hands on the wheel. A report from Automotive News indicates there is a torque sensor built into the steering system that detects whether or not the driver’s hands are on the wheel. Should the driver try to nod off or focus his attention elsewhere, a warning light will illuminate followed by an annoying chime. If that doesn’t get the driver’s attention, the system will automatically shut down.

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Why it Matters

The Japanese Join in on the Fully Autonomous Car Craze
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As of the time of this writing, the system is only available on the Serena, which is sold in the Japanese Market. However, Nissan says it will be introduced on the Qashqai in Europe as early as the 2017 model year and that there are plans for the system to come to the U.S. and Chinese markets at an undisclosed time in the future. The system will be able to make automatic lane changes by 2018 and should be capable of handling urban roads and intersections by the turn of the decade.

For those wondering, the ProPilot system actually differs greatly from the semi-autonomous features available on Infiniti vehicles. The semi-autonomous tech in Infiniti vehicles is heavily backed by the use of lasers while the ProPilot system relies on a camera – much like Tesla’s autonomous system. As far as Nissan being the “first” Japanese brand with fully-autonomous technology, no other competitors come to mind, but it seems like its luxury branch can pretty much do the same thing at this point, as Infiniti’s semi-autonomous technology can follow vehicles and steer at this point as well. Perhaps Nissan is jumping the gun by saying it is the first – at least until 2018 when the ProPILOT system will reportedly be able to change lanes as well.

Press Release

YOKOHAMA, Japan (July 13, 2016) – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announced today that the new Serena, scheduled to go on sale here in late August, will come equipped with the company’s ProPILOT autonomous drive technology, offering convenience and peace of mind during highway mobility.

ProPILOT

ProPILOT is a revolutionary autonomous drive technology designed for highway use in single-lane traffic. Nissan is the first Japanese automaker to introduce a combination of steering, accelerator and braking that can be operated in full automatic mode, easing driver workload in heavy highway traffic and long commutes.

Employing advanced image-processing technology, the car’s ProPILOT system understands road and traffic situations and executes precise steering enabling the vehicle to perform naturally. ProPILOT technology is extremely user-friendly, thanks to a switch on the steering wheel that allows the driver to easily activate and deactivate the system. ProPILOT’s easy-to-understand and fit-to-drive interface includes a personal display showing the operating status.

System Configuration

The accelerator, brakes and steering are controlled based on information obtained through a mono camera equipped with advanced-image processing software. The ProPILOT camera can quickly recognize in three-dimensional depth both preceding vehicles and lane markers.

Functions

Once activated, ProPILOT automatically controls the distance between the vehicle and the preceding vehicle, using a speed preset by the driver (between approximately 30 km/h and 100 km/h). The system also keeps the car in the middle of the highway lane by reading lane markers and controlling steering, even through curves.

If a car in front stops:

The ProPILOT system automatically applies the brakes to bring the vehicle to a full stop. After coming to a full stop, the vehicle will remain in place even if the driver’s foot is off the brake pedal. When ready to resume driving, ProPILOT is activated when the driver touches the switch again or lightly presses the accelerator.

Nissan is carrying out intensive studies of driving conditions in various regions so that ProPILOT will be well suited to the conditions in the markets in which it will be launched. The ProPILOT system equipped on the Serena in Japan was developed in pursuit of an easy-to-use technology for highway driving conditions in Japan.

Making Zero Fatalities a Reality

Nissan is proactively working on vehicle intelligence and vehicle electrification to make its corporate visions of “Zero Emissions” and “Zero Fatalities” a reality. Under “Nissan Intelligent Mobility”, ProPILOT promotes safety and instills confidence in drivers, and it is part of “Nissan Intelligent Driving”.

ProPILOT will be introduced into other vehicles, including the Qashqai in Europe in 2017. There are also plans for the technology to be introduced in the U.S. and China markets. A multi-lane autonomous driving technology will enable automatic lane changes on highways and is planned for introduction in 2018 while autonomous driving on urban roads and in intersections is planned for launch in 2020.

Nissan will advance its leadership in autonomous drive technology by introduction in each market’s core models, further improving safety and pioneering a new era for the automobile.

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