Nissan has unveiled the latest evolution of its ongoing driverless technology program, showcasing the Leaf Piloted Drive 1.0 car in Japan this week.
Building on the development success of the semi-autonomous Leaf EV revealed in 2013, this latest step sees Nissan’s Intelligent Driving system upgraded with new sensors and advanced new abilities.
Nissan says that the upgrade significantly improves the prototype’s ability to autonomously change lanes in heavy traffic, merge onto and exit freeways, and pass slower moving vehicles without human assistance or prompting.
The new prototype’s technologies include five radar sensors, 12 cameras, four laser scanners and a number of ultrasonic sensors, all working together to give the vehicle’s systems a 360-degree view of its surroundings.
Nissan says that the system’s ability to change lanes in heavy traffic is supported by a special high-spec laser scanner that determines the distance and speed between neighbouring vehicles, determining whether there is space enough to make a move.
Clearly impressed with its efforts, Nissan says the prototype’s technology is so advanced that “occupants feel as though they were in the hands of a skilled driver”.
The enhanced Leaf is now testing at Nissan’s Advanced Technology Centre near Tokyo, and the company has had permission for testing on public roads since late 2013.
The company also revealed earlier this year that it had partnered with NASA on the further development of driverless technology, with testing to be carried out the space administration’s Ames facility in Silicon Valley, California.
“The partnership will accelerate Nissan’s development of safe, secure and reliable autonomous drive technology that we will progressively introduce to consumers beginning in 2016 up to 2020,” Nissan (and Renault) CEO Carlos Ghosn said at the time.
This week’s launch of the Leaf Piloted Drive 1.0 prototype also brought reaffirmation again that, like many of its rivals, Nissan fully expects to have advanced autonomous models available by 2020.
Before then, the company plans to introduce a traffic-jam pilot and automatic parking system by the end of next year, while an automatic lane-changing feature will debut in 2018.