The system will automatically disengage if it detects the driver's hands are not on the steering wheel.
The first production Nissan to make use of the company's newly developed semi-autonomous driving technology dubbed “ProPILOT” is the Serena minivan in JDM flavour. Unveiled earlier this month, the fifth generation of the practical family hauler can drive on its own, but only on a highway in single-lane traffic. The good news is the system is being further developed as we speak, and in 2018 it will be smart enough to handle multi-lane driving. By the end of the decade, the hardware and software will evolve to grant autonomous city driving.
There are a number of similarities between Nissan’s system and Tesla’s Autopilot, but the one installed in the Japan-only Serena forces the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel at all times. A warning light will come on if the sensors built into the steering wheel won’t detect the driver’s hands. Should the person behind the wheel ignore the visual warning, a buzzer will automatically activate. If that won’t convince the driver to put his or her hands on the steering wheel, ProPILOT will automatically turn itself off. It remains to be seen how that will actually happen in what we assume (and hope) will be a safe manner.
You can imagine ProPILOT wasn’t developed exclusively for the new Serena since that would be a waste. That’s why the initial plan is to implement the tech in more than 10 vehicles set to arrive in the next four years from Nissan and its partner Renault. The Qasqhai crossover sold in Europe will get it next year and Nissan says it also has plans to offer the semi-autonomous driving system on select models available in China and the United States, and presumably Canada.
Even driver-focused cars such as the 370Z and GT-R could get it, with Nissan’s Global Vice President for Research and Advanced Engineering saying last October these two models are not “immune” from quasi-autonomous driving tech. The ultimate goal of the company’s R&D efforts in this area is, of course, to have an entirely autonomous car ready. It all started with the Leaf Piloted Drive 1.0 concept from 2015 and now we are seeing the technology on a road-going Nissan for the very first time, with many more to follow.