Nissan Motor Co Ltd recently launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions on Wednesday. They however stressed that the Nissan auto drive features were 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 by vehicle sales said its feature can drive a vehicle on single-lane motorways and navigate congestion. The Nissan auto drive feature, named “ProPilot” will first appear on a Serena minivan model on sale in Japan from next month.
As global automakers race to develop self-driving cars, the safety of current automated systems was called into question by U.S. investigators saying a driver died in a crash while the autopilot of his Tesla Motors Inc Model S 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 the Nissan auto drive device ProPilot, which keeps the vehicle a fixed distance from the car in front without requiring the driver to control the steering, accelerator or brake. With ProPilot, Nissan joins many automakers including Tesla, BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in marketing adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance.
Nissan will sell its ProPilot-equipped Serena for under 3 million yen ($28,758), making it one of few mid-priced vehicles with autopilot features more common among luxury cars. The automaker also plans to add ProPilot to Qashqai sport utility vehicle crossover models in coming months, and introduce the feature in the United States and China.