Nissan ups the ante in ‘self-drive’ car design safety

Nissan has launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions for its vehicles, stressing they are intended to assist and not replace drivers, just two weeks after similar technology in another maker’s car was involved in a fatal crash.

Japan’s second-ranked carmaker said its ProPilot programme can drive a vehicle on single-lane motorways and navigate congestion.

It said the feature will first appear on a Serena minivan model on sale in Japan from next month.

As global carmakers race to develop self-driving cars, the safety of current automated systems was recently called into question by US investigators saying a driver died in a crash while the autopilot of his Tesla Motors Model S car was engaged.

While Nissan declined to comment directly on that incident, executive vice president Hideyuki Sakamoto said it was important drivers did not overestimate the purpose and capabilities of automated driving functions.

“These functions are meant to support drivers, and are not meant as self-driving capabilities” which let drivers take their eyes off the road, he said.

“These are two very different things.”

Pushing a button on the steering wheel activates ProPilot, which keeps the vehicle a fixed distance from the car in front without requiring the driver to control the steering, accelerator or brake.

Like Tesla’s similar technology, ProPilot requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. A warning sign flashes if the wheel is released for more than around four seconds.


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