Nissan has announced the second iteration of the ProPilot self-driving technology, set to debut in its forthcoming Skyline for the Japanese market. ProPilot 2.0 brings hands-off driving into the mix for the first time, though for now only on highways and only under certain conditions.
The ProPilot technology is at the heart of Nissan's self-driving aspirations, and the company has begun to work stripped-back versions of it into selected models over the past few years. This included the Serena minivan back in 2016, the Rogue the year after, followed by the Nissan Leaf and X-Trail.
The original ProPilot did have some role to play in highway driving, offering semi-autonomous assistance with acceleration, steering and braking, along with lane departure warnings, intelligent emergency braking and intelligent lane intervention.
But the newly-announced ProPilot 2.0 is the first time users will be able to take their hands off the wheel. It uses a mix of cameras, radars, sonars, GPS and map data to monitor the environment around the car, while an internal camera is placed on the instrument panel to keep an eye on the driver and make sure they are paying attention to the road.
Built to handle highway driving between the on ramp and off ramp, ProPilot 2.0 first requires the driver to enter their destination so it can generate a pre-defined route. Audio and visual notifications will then advise the driver that assisted driving is available, who can then accept the offer by flipping a switch.
From there, the system will help keep the car centered in the middle of the lane, and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of it. The driver can then remove their hands from the wheel and leave the car to continue to cruise down that particular lane.
ProPilot 2.0 can also identify opportunities to overtake a slower vehicle in front, alerting the driver of the suggested lane change, which the driver first has to authorize with a tug of the turn stalk. The car then handles the lane change after again determining that it is safe to do so. This is similar to the functionality offered by Tesla's Navigate on Autopilot technology, which was updated last month to include autonomous lane changing.
There's no word just yet on when the technology will be expanded to other vehicles in Nissan's lineup, but the ProPilot 2.0-Skyline will land in Japan in fall 2019 (Northern hemisphere).
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