ATSUGI, Japan -- Nissan Motor Co., aiming to put autonomous vehicles on the road by 2020, has unveiled its latest prototype, a sensor-laden Leaf electric vehicle that can change lanes, pass cars and merge onto and off of highway by itself.
The system previews a new technology called Piloted Drive 1.0 that Nissan says it will offer in Japan by the end of next year.
Regardless of who is at the wheel, the Japanese automaker says the prototype’s new functions make the car’s “occupants feel as though they were in the hands of a skilled driver.”
Nissan unveiled the car, which recently began testing in Japan, at its Advanced Technology Center south of Tokyo earlier today.
The company’s catchphrase for its new self-driving technology: “Because driving is a full time job and humans are only human."
Tetsuya Iijima, general manager of Nissan’s advanced driver assist systems strategy and engineering division, said the fleet of three Leafs are readying the technology for mass production.
Nissan’s name for the technology is Nissan Intelligent Driving.
Nissan said last year it will deploy two new technologies, a traffic-jam pilot and an automatic parking system, by the end of 2016, and an automatic lane-changing feature in 2018.
That will be followed, by the end of the decade, by a smart-assist feature that will allow Nissan’s cars to negotiate city intersections without driver intervention.
Nissan has been using the Leaf, its signature zero emissions vehicle, as a rolling test for its autonomous driving technology. The car unveiled this week is the latest iteration.
It bristles with more than 20 dozen sensors of assorted kinds and sizes, giving the car a 360-degree view of its surroundings.
The package includes five radar sensors, 12 cameras, four laser scanners and a slew of ultrasonic sensors, Iijima said.
A key technology being tested is the car’s Piloted Drive 1.0, which goes on sale in Japan by the end of next year. Pilot Drive allows autonomous driving in heavy highway traffic.
It is enabled by a miniature, high-spec laser scanner Nissan has developed. It determines the distance between vehicles to enable the car to weave through tight spaces, Nissan said.
A new eight-way 360-degree view camera system also gives precise routing information through intersections and curves.
The new Leaf Intelligent Driving prototype also has a Manual Drive mode, letting the human driver take the wheel as usual.
With driver interface, the car tries out other new technologies, including a head-up display and a center cluster that provides a bird’s eye view of the car and its surroundings during Piloted Drive mode.