Anybody who still ascertains that “we’ll never see autonomous driving in our lifetime,” has to be rethinking the statement with the proposal of legislation in the UK to integrate autonomous vehicles into the traffic stream.
Having sensed the inevitable some time ago, Nissan welcomes the proposed legislation, having already announced that it would have a vehicle so equipped in the marketplace next year, and as many as 10 ready to roll out to North America, Asia and Europe by 2020.
“Any new legislation, such as we’ve seen announced, that supports the adoption and integration of autonomous vehicle technologies, is a positive for the UK,” said Paul Willcox, Chairman of Nissan Europe. “Autonomously-equipped vehicles will improve the safety and well-being of drivers, with fewer collisions and reduced traffic congestion. The UK economy can also benefit, by playing a pivotal role in a global industry estimated to be worth £900 billion (about $1.7 trillion Canadian) by 2025.”
For its part, Nissan is ready with ProPilot — the first stage in autonomous drive technology, which enables a vehicle to drive autonomously and safely in a single lane in heavy traffic conditions on highways. It will be available in the refreshed Qashqai crossover vehicle that will be sourced for Europe out of Sunderland.
ProPilot will also lead the way to the 2018 enhancement of multi-lane control, which will see vehicles change lanes and avoid hazards all by themselves. Intersection autonomy, which will allow cars to navigate heavy urban traffic and city junctions without driver intervention, will follow in 2020.
And perhaps the best news of all is that Nissan plans to put the technology in mainstream, mass-market, affordable vehicles, not keep the technology in higher end vehicles.
“Nissan is about taking innovative, premium technologies and making them accessible and affordable to the general public,” said Willcox. “We’re excited to be debuting the first phase of our autonomous driving technology, ProPilot, on the Nissan Qashqai in 2017 – one of the UK’s best-selling cars and a model produced right here at our Sunderland plant.”
Many of Nissan’s vehicles already feature adaptive cruise control (which keeps a safe distance between vehicles, matching speeds by using drive-by-wire acceleration and braking) and some of its higher-end vehicles (most notably Infiniti models) also use lane-keep assist that nudges the vehicle back into position if it attempts to stray beyond lane markings. As such, the technology behind ProPilot isn’t as far-fetched as some autonomous driving critics will have you believe.
“The introduction of ProPilot technology will be an evolution not a revolution,” concluded Willcox. “The building blocks for this are already in place in many of our cars today through our Safety Shield Technology.”
The new Qashqai has been rumoured to be coming to North America to slot in below the Rogue, with which it shares architecture, so North Americans may get a chance at the driverless technology as early as fall 2017.