The leaders of nations at the G7 summit in Japan have been offered a first-hand look at the progress into autonomous driving, courtesy of Nissan.
The technology was particularly interesting to European Council President Donald Tusk, since Nissan plans to introduce a new Qashqai with limited autonomous driving capabilities to European roads in 2017, and then the United States and China. It is scheduled to be introduced in Japan by the end of the year.
The vehicle for the autonomous drive road session was a modified Nissan Leaf electric car, equipped with special features such as millimetre wave radar, laser scanners, cameras all around, and the specialized human/machine interface to support driving without driver interference.
It’s all part of the ProPilot technology that will allow for autonomous driving in three stages, in successive order — simple highway driving in a lane (requiring driver input to change lanes, as needed, but otherwise managing traffic flow and merges into the lane), complex highway driving (where the vehicle manages driving in multiple lanes and highway merges and exits), and urban driving (where the vehicle manages intersections and complex route planning).
The prototype vehicle featured two innovative technologies — aminiature is a high-spec laser scanner that positions the vehicle in relation to its surroundings through precise 3-dimensional measurements, which allows it to navigate in tight spaces (such as in congested highway traffic); and an 8-way camera system that grants a 360-degree view around the car in order to get accurate routing around intersections and sharp bends.
The technologies have already undergone real-world testing on highways in Japan and the US. Following introductions in Japan and then Europe, the ProPilot-equipped vehicles will become available in the US and then China.
Multi-lane autonomous driving will be implemented in 2018, and urban driving by 2020.