Nissan’s intuitive new ProPILOT Assist is a fresh “hands-on-wheel” technology that essentially eases driver workload. While providing steering aid and reducing the need for constant small steering adjustments, Nissan is moving another cautious step towards fully autonomous vehicles.
As implied above, the driver’s hands must be on the steering wheel at all time. This is a notable departure from Tesla’s Autopilot, which lets you take your hands off the wheel for a while before warning you to grab hold or get kicked out of Autopilot.
I’ve never met a Nissan LEAF driver who did not love their EV. It is the most sold electric car in history, which may not get it the attention of a Tesla Model S but is still notable and marks Nissan’s leadership in this space. The ProPILOT news is another pioneering move for Nissan.
For the first time on public roads in the US, Nissan recently put media behind the wheel to experience its ProPILOT Assist technology. “ProPILOT Assist reduces the hassle of stop-and-go driving by helping control acceleration, braking, and steering during single-lane highway driving.”
As with self-driving technologies, safety is a key issue and often out front, hand in hand with convenience. Nissan believes it helps lessen drivers’ fatigue, increasing their level of alertness when they need to manage a difficult situation.
“ProPILOT Assist uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors and electronic control module to help the driver stay in the center of the driving lane and to maintain vehicle speed (set by the driver) or help maintain a gap to the preceding vehicle if the vehicle speed drops below the driver-set speed,” Nissan writes. “It also can slow the vehicle to a complete stop and holds the vehicle during traffic jam conditions.
“Hands-on detection is provided by the system’s steering torque sensor. If the driver only grips the steering system with a light touch, the warning system may activate, alerting the driver to apply more pressure or a tighter grip on the steering wheel.”
The recent ProPILOT Assist system was specifically tuned for US roads and drivers. Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Michigan led the development — with more than 50,000 miles on roads across the United States. ProPILOT Assist is a perfect transition for those a bit nervous about self-driving features, as it is a “hands-on” driver assist system.
“Steering assist is canceled in inclement weather if the windshield wipers are in the low or high position (if lane lines can be detected, the system can remain active when the wipers are in the intermittent mode or if the mist function is activated).” As with Cruise Control, lane assistance is also canceled with the driver’s braking. “The driver’s input always takes priority, overriding the system when the steering wheel is turned or the turn signal is operated (steering assistance goes into a temporary standby mode). The system also goes into temporary standby mode when the accelerator pedal is pressed.”
ProPILOT Assist features “two-button” activation. The driver first must push the blue ProPILOT Assist “ON” button, which is integrated into the right-side steering wheel spoke. Step two is to set the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, as with a normal advanced cruise control system.
“When lane markers are consistently detected, steering assist engages and the steering wheel/lane marker icons on the instrument panel turn green. Both right and left-hand markers need to be detected by the front camera. Steering assist will engage or disengage depending on the visibility or presence of lane markers, though the Intelligent Cruise Control will remain active.”
The driver just presses the resume button or taps the accelerator pedal to begin moving again if stopped in traffic.
“ProPILOT Assist functionally enhances the ICC system, including stop, hold and start, while the steering assist’s lane centering helps keep the vehicle in the center of the lane,” added Takeshi Yamaguchi, senior vice president, Research, and Development, Nissan Technical Center North America, Nissan North America, Inc.
“Drivers who have experienced ProPILOT Assist always remark about the difference it makes, not realizing how many accelerations, steering and braking inputs they make under normal driving – and how much more enjoyable it is to have ProPILOT Assist help to take care of it for them.”
Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist will be available later this year.
Nissan’s technology will extend 10 more models in Europe, Japan, China, and the United States by 2020 via the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
“Nissan is a technology pioneer and ProPILOT Assist sets a strong, consumer-focused foundation for fully autonomous vehicles of the future,” said Yamaguchi.
Yes, drivers do want autonomous features:
Survey results from our new EV report. Responses came from over 2,000 EV drivers across 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 Canadian provinces. Responses were segmented according to region — North America vs Europe — and type of electric car — plug-in hybrid vs Tesla vs non-Tesla fully electric car.
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