Autonomous driving is great because nothing can go wrong – go wrong – go wrong. A couple of recent high-profile fatal accidents involving this technology have cast shadows on the work done by the likes of Tesla and Uber.
Often the perception of a new technology tops its reality. In spite of enormous progress, people are still wary of cars driving themselves. This is why Nissan’s recently launched ProPILOT Assist was a cautiously reassuring first step. ProPILOT is a hands-on approach to autonomous driving. It is literally hands on – the system will not allow you to take your hands off the wheel.
Technology assisting drivers ranges from basic cruise control all the way to self-driving with you reading a book in the traffic. ProPILOT is way beyond the former, but still very far from the latter. It is Nissan’s first generation advanced driver assistance, designed to help you during long highway trips and stop/start commuting. Nissan is taking baby steps, getting the technology where it needs to go in digestible increments, and keeping the driving public comfortable with the pace of its progress.
Using a front radar sensor and front-facing camera, ProPILOT will keep you in the middle of your chosen lane, even around gentle curves. It will maintain a pre-set gap to the car in front of you, changing speed as needed. It will even stop with the traffic, hold its position, and bring you back up to speed when the traffic starts moving again. The system can be turned on or off by a button on the steering wheel.
ProPILOT is designed to assist, not replace, the driver. Take your hands off the wheel and a flashing icon will warn you, then an audible warning, then a louder warning, brake pulsing, and finally the car will turn on its hazards and stop in its lane. ‘Assist’ was added to the name in the US market to emphasise what the system can and cannot do.
This first generation system was designed to assist you when keeping to one lane. According to Nissan, the second generation ProPILOT will support steering, braking and accelerating during multi-lane driving.
In the US, ProPILOT Assist was introduced in some models of the Nissan Rogue 2018. It is also available in the Leaf 2019. It made its debut in Japan with the 2016 Nissan Serena, 5-door minivan. ProPILOT is not yet available in South Africa.