A few years ago, then-CEO of Nissan Carlos Ghosn announced that the company was on track to produce a series production, fully autonomous vehicle by 2020. This aggressive announcement was taken as a surety by most in the automotive industry; partly because Ghosn was never known to exaggerate, and partly because a handful of years seemed just about enough time to make it realistic. Most of the roadblocks to autonomy, Ghosn explained, were not in technology, but in the regulation and legal issues surrounding self-driving vehicles.
Not long after Ghosn's announcement, Nissan introduced ProPILOT Assist in the Japan-only Serena van. Later, in a fun way, ProPILOT was announced globally with the ProPILOT Chair. Now the company is confident enough in its technology to go global. With the vehicle that outsells all others in the Nissan lineup.
The 2018 Nissan Rogue will have ProPILOT Assist as an option in its topmost SL trim as part of the Platinum Package. The expected starting price for that vehicle, with this tech included, will be under US$35,000. It will be on the market in late October, 2017. The technology will then be in the upcoming 2018 Nissan LEAF, entering the market in January 2018, followed by other models.
Similar to systems from Tesla, BMW and Mercedes, ProPILOT Assist builds on adaptive cruise control (which Nissan calls "Intelligent Cruise Control") by combining assisted steering, braking and accelerating, along with some capabilities for dealing with heavy traffic.
ProPILOT is activated by pressing a button on the steering wheel near the regular cruise controls. Cruise control is then activated in the normal way, setting a desired top speed and allowing the sensors to keep the vehicle paced with the vehicle in front of it. The ProPILOT system adds the ability to sense the lane's edges and help hold the car in the center of those lines. This is done through a forward-facing camera, which sees the lane markers and instructs the vehicle's steering system to keep it centered between them. The driver, of course, can override at any time. Finally, if traffic stops completely, the ProPILOT Assist system will stop the car. If the stop lasts more than three seconds, the driver must input through either a button press or on the accelerator to resume the car's movement.
Nissan has developed ProPILOT Assist to the point that it can operate even when the windshield wipers are activated in intermittent mode or are misting to clean the windscreen. It shuts off automatically if the wipers are activated to a faster mode, under the assumption that the camera's ability to see lane markers will be compromised. The system also shuts itself off if lane markers are not clear enough. The driver is able to override the ProPILOT system at any time and the system requires that the driver's hands be on the wheel in order for it to operate.
Nissan has been testing further self-driving and semi-autonomous technologies throughout its brands. Alliance partners Renault and Mitsubishi are working with Nissan with research and development for these technologies, including a launch of the next-generation of ProPILOT Assist, which is planned for next year.