Nissan Motor Co Ltd announced the details of the ProPilot automatic driving technology July 13, 2016.
The technology realizes automatic driving on a single lane of a motorway. As a starter, it will be used for the Serena minivan to be released in late August 2016.
The ProPilot is an automatic driving technology that falls into the category of "Level 2" defined by the US Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). In the Level 2 category, acceleration/deceleration and steering are controlled mainly by a system, but the monitoring of the conditions around the vehicle and so forth are done mainly by the driver.
ProPilot Realizes 3 Functions
I had a test drive of a minivan equipped with the ProPilot at Nissan Oppama Factory. It provides functions to (1) maintain vehicle speed, (2) follow/stop/stay and (3) control steering. For the first function, it automatically controls the accelerator and drives the vehicle at a speed set by the driver.
The second function keeps the distance to a preceding vehicle and stops the user's vehicle when the preceding vehicle stops by automatically controlling the accelerator and the brakes. If the user's vehicle stops for less than three seconds, it automatically starts moving when the preceding vehicle restarts. If the user's vehicle stops for more than three seconds, it starts moving when, for example, a button on the steering wheel is pressed.
The third function keeps the vehicle running near the center of the road by automatically controlling the steering.
The ProPilot realizes those functions only by a monocular camera. Attached to the windshield (inside the car), the camera recognizes preceding vehicles, white lines, etc. The monocular camera is used to measure the distance to a preceding vehicle and detect the position of the user's vehicle in the lane, and the accelerator, brakes and steering are controlled based on those data.
During the test drive, I thought that the ProPilot will be useful when I am stuck in a long traffic jam on an expressway or when I am driving a car for long hours at a constant speed. Also, it was easy to operate the system, which uses only two buttons on the steering.