YOKOHAMA, Japan — It may take a while for Nissan's next- generation, hands-free autonomous driving technology to reach the U.S. Although the new ProPilot 2.0 system will be available this fall in Japan, it must still undergo more testing before premiering in North America.
The U.S. introduction of the first-generation ProPilot trailed its Japan debut by more than a year. Now ProPilot 2.0 is making several advances over the first-generation ProPilot technology, which has been sold in 350,000 vehicles worldwide since hitting the market in 2016.
Chief among the improvements is pure hands-off highway driving available from on-ramp to off-ramp. The system will switch lanes, pass other cars and help with lane exiting, but those maneuvers require drivers to take a hands-on position.
The current system doesn't allow lane changing or take orders from the navigation system to drive itself to a chosen destination. In the U.S., Nissan adds "Assist" to ProPilot to avoid engendering a false sense of security in its limited abilities.
Nissan said in a statement that ProPilot 2.0 delivers "the world's first driver assistance system to combine navigated highway driving with hands-off single-lane driving capabilities."
Hybrid versions of the Skyline get ProPilot 2 as standard equipment in Japan.
"By delivering these new products before anyone else, we have been unlocking the future of mobility," Executive Vice President Asako Hoshino said at the launch.
"This is the first product that enables hands-off driving in certain circumstances in assisting the driver on multilane highways," she said.
The new system fulfills Nissan's promise to launch an auto-navigating, self-driving system for highways by the end of the decade. ProPilot 2.0 cobbles together seven cameras, five radar sensors and 12 sonar sensors, combined with a 3D high-definition mapping navigation system.
The technology can pinpoint the car's location to within 5 centimeters, said Kunio Nakaguro, executive vice president for r&d and product development.
ProPilot 2.0 allows hands-off driving only when the car is traveling in the same lane. When the car switches lanes, Japanese regulations require drivers to have their hands on the wheel. ProPilot 2.0 still changes the lanes by itself; the hand-holding is just a precaution. The system works only on highways that have been mapped in 3D high-definition.
The complexity of mapping the expansive U.S. highway network in 3D high definition is another factor weighing on a North American introduction. In more compact Japan, where such mapping gets government backing, most of the major highways are already covered.