Calling it a “revolutionary autonomous drive technology designed for highway use in single-lane traffic,” Nissan debuted ProPILOT on the redesigned Serena van scheduled to go on sale in Japan in late August.
But the Japanese automaker also cautions that it’s the responsibility of automakers to warn about the proper usage of nearly autonomous driving technology in the wake of the recent fatal crash involving a Tesla with Autopilot.
After availability in the Serena van in the Japanese market, ProPILOT will next be offered on other vehicles, including the Qashqai crossover vehicle in Europe in 2017, with plans for the technology in the U.S. and China with no introduction date specified.
Nissan says that multi-lane autonomous driving technology that will enable automatic highway lane changes is planned for introduction in 2018. Furthermore, Nissan announced that autonomous driving on urban roads and in intersections will launch in 2020.
How ProPILOT Works
In single-lane highway conditions, the ProPILOT semiautonomous driving technology follows the car ahead while tracking markers and judging curves, according to Nissan executives. The technology maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead by modulating speed and can apply the brakes, if necessary, to bring the car to a complete stop.
The ProPILOT system makes use of a camera system with technology from sensor supplier Mobileye N.V. The camera “can quickly recognize in three-dimensional depth both preceding vehicles and lane markers,” according to a Nissan press release.
Nissan says the ProPILOT system, once activated, automatically controls distance between the vehicle ahead, and that it operates at a speed preset by the driver between 19 mph (30 kph) and 62 mph (100 kph).
Nissan says the technology is “extremely user-friendly,” due to a switch conveniently located on the steering wheel that easily allows the driver to activate and deactivate the system.
If a car in front of the ProPILOT-equipped and activated vehicle stops, the ProPILOT system automatically applies the brakes, bringing the vehicle to a full stop. The vehicle will remain in place, Nissan says, even if the driver’s foot comes off the brake pedal. When the driver is again ready to resume driving, the ProPILOT is reactivated with either the driver pushing the switch on the steering wheel or lightly pressing the accelerator.
What Happens If The Driver Takes Hands Off The Steering Wheel
A report of the ProPILOT technology in Automotive News says that while the system allows the driver to take hands off the wheel, “it doesn’t tolerate doing so.”
There’s a torque sensor located on the steering column that senses whether the driver’s hands are on the wheel. If it doesn’t detect driver’s hands on the wheel, a warning light comes on. Should the driver fail to respond by returning hands to the wheel, a warning beeper begins to chime. If several seconds go by with no driver grip on the wheel, the ProPILOT system disengages and the self-driving function is discontinued.
Photos courtesy Nissan