Nissan plans to offer "fully autonomous" cars in 2022, and will take responsibility for any incidents that occur on the road with them from this time onwards, as Volvo and a few other brands have committed to do.
The company discussed its plans for vehicle autonomy with media at its headquarter city of Yokohama this week, sharing findings from testing conducted in Tokyo, London and Silicon Valley dating back as early as 2013.
Its roadmap shows current-day Level 2 active driver aids (think lane assist, adaptive cruise control) will be improved to handle multiple-lane highways next year, urban roads and intersection by 2020, and Level 4 fully autonomous driving within five years from now.
The exclamation point on these bold claims was demonstrated earlier this week by the new IMx electric crossover concept, which claims full autonomy, including a mode where the steering wheel actually folds into the dash.
Nissan also this week demonstrated a prototype of its next-generation autonomous driving tech, planned for use in a test phase on public roads, in Tokyo, from 2020.
This next iteration of its so-called ProPilot suite was fitted to a modified Infiniti Q50, and apparently enables the vehicle to operate autonomously on urban roads and freeways, beginning when the driver selects a destination using the navigation system, until arrival.
We were supposed to sample this tech on a road course in the Japanese capital this week, but at the last minute it was cancelled. The company cited "congestion". Hmmm.
Nevertheless, the prototype’s artificial intelligence uses input from 12 sonars, 12 cameras, nine millimeter-wave radars, six laser scanners and a high-definition map, all of which apparently allows the car to adjust in real-time and navigate busy intersections with many variables.
Nissan claims that "these hardware upgrades, along with software improvements, also ensure smooth transitions when encountering obstacles in the road. This results in a human-like driving feel that gives passengers peace of mind".
The 360-degree driverless car tech is complemented by new in-car curved OLED displays and an augmented reality head-up display, as seen in the IMx, plus gesture control that includes eye-gaze tracking as well as gesture and motion detection.
Another side of this coin is shared data. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance plans to sell 14 million cars annually inside five years, by which time 90 per cent will be connected to an Alliance Cloud server, via a plug-in dongle. Data sharing is a key part of this next-generation technology rollout.
In the meantime, Nissan is rolling out the current ProPilot level 2 system on the Leaf, Qashqai and X-Trail. Despite the fancy title, this is basically just lane-departure prevention and adaptive cruise control melded into one.