Nissan's ProPILOT Assist Helps Autonomy go Mainstream

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【Summary】The Nissan ProPILOT Assist lane keeping system is capable of Level 2 autonomy. It recently debuted in Nissan Rogue and Leaf vehicles.

Mia Bevacqua    Mar 18, 2018 9:05 AM PT
Nissan's ProPILOT Assist Helps Autonomy go Mainstream

Tesla better watch out – it's not the only company with self-driving cars on the road.  Recently, Nissan (yes, Nissan) started fitting vehicles with its Level 2 autonomous ProPILOT Assist system. 

ProPILOT Assist offers self-driving features

As many gear heads and technophiles know, there are 6 levels of autonomy, starting at Level 0. Level 2 systems can control steering and speed for short periods of time without intervention. But, the driver is still required to stay attentive in case something goes awry. 

ProPILOT Assist – available on mainstream Nissan vehicles – falls into the Level 2 category. This advanced feature allows a car to stay centered between the lanes, both at highway speeds and in stop and go traffic. It's able to do this by combining two systems the vehicle already has: Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) and Steering Assist. 

"ICC was enhanced to add ‘stop and hold' capability, so now the system does not disengage when the vehicle comes to a stop. And the steering assist provides lane centering capability as opposed to ‘lane keeping' which can bounce the vehicle between lane markers," explained Andy Christensen, Senior Manager of Intelligent Transportation Systems Research at the Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Farmington Hills, MI.

Pushing a couple of steering wheel-mounted buttons is all it takes to experience Level 2 autonomy. Once activated, the system uses steering torque sensor to detect the driver's hands on the wheel. If it determines the driver has let go, a barrage of audible and visual warnings ensue.

To sense the vehicle ahead, ProPILOT uses a radar sensor mounted behind the grille, and a camera attached to the windshield. These peripheral devices detect lane markers and vehicle lane position. 

How the system fares in the real world 

So, what does it feel like to get behind the wheel with ProPILOT? One Forbes reporter summed things up by saying it worked well, but left him wanting more. Right now, for legal reasons, Nissan must market the systems as advanced adaptive cruise control. As a result, taking your hands off the steering wheel for a microsecond triggers a series of sirens and lights. If you don't heed the warnings, ProPILOT will forcibly bring the car to a stop. 

Another problem with the system is Nissan designed it for use on limited access, two-lane highways. Not a lot of those in your neck of the woods? Then you're out of luck. The system struggles to function on backroads and multi-lane freeways. 

ProPILOT made its debut in the 2018 Nissan Rogue and the all-electric Leaf. Apparently, the systems limited, yet intriguing functionality is enough for most people. Nissan has already sold over 75,000 vehicles equipped with ProPILOT. 

Sources: US News, Forbes and SAE

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