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Nissan serves up autonomous Serena

Autopilot engaged: Nissan’s Serena people mover will launch next month with its ProPilot autonomous driving mode, but the Japanese car-maker is limiting the technology to its native market, for now.

Autonomous Nissan Serena going on sale in Japan next month, but not for Australia

Nissan logo14 Jul 2016

By STUART MARTIN

JAPAN will get a taste of Nissan’s autonomous driving technology when its ProPilot-equipped Serena goes on sale next month, but the car-maker is only offering the self-driving people mover in its native market for now.

Nissan is claiming to be the first Japanese auto-maker to introduce a combination of steering, acceleration and braking (to a standstill) in full automatic mode, which uses a camera and advanced-image processing software to view vehicles and lane markers.

The ProPilot system – able to operate in single-lane and motorway scenarios – is operated via a switch on the steering wheel with a 7.0-inch dash display showing the operating status.

The Nissan system uses technology supplied by Mobileye, a supplier of driver assistance and autonomous driving technology to GM and Volkswagen who added Nissan and Renault to its list of clients earlier this year.

The Mobileye Road Experience Management (REM) technology lays claim to leading software algorithms and “EyeQ” chips that analyse the view ahead for possible collisions with vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, animals, debris and other obstacles, as well as detecting roadway lane markings, road boundaries, barriers, traffic signs, directional signs and traffic lights.

The system controls the distance between the Serena and the vehicle in front at a selected speed set by the driver – between 30km/h and 100km/h – but without a vehicle to follow, the system requires a speed of at least 50km/h, according to Nissan.

The camera system and electric power steering combine to keep the car in the middle of the highway lane by reading lane markers, as well as counteracting road camber and undulations to maintain the desired direction.

The system does require driver intervention after coming to a full stop to resume its journey, either by touching the switch again or lightly pressing the accelerator.

Nissan said the ProPilot system was part of the brand’s corporate vision of “Zero Emissions” and “Zero Fatalities”.

The system, developed under Nissan’s “Intelligent Mobility” is aiming to reduce the number of fatalities in Nissan vehicles by half by 2020.

Statistics from Nissan claim the rate of 3.14 fatalities per 10,000 Nissan vehicles in the US has been reduced to 1.45 between 1995 and 2011, with an aim to reduce that figure to 0.79 by 2020.

A rate of 15.3 fatalities or serious injuries per 10,000 Nissans sold in Japan has been more than halved between 1995 and 2011, as has the 19.2 fatalities or serious injuries per 10,000 UK-sold Nissans.

The brand said it is developing the system for other markets and is studying driving conditions in various export markets – the first of which will be Europe, where the ProPilot system will debut in the Qashqai next year.

Although the Australian delivered Qashqai is taken from the same Sunderland factory as its European counterpart, Nissan Australia corporate communications manager Chris Jordan said that a local debut for the system is not yet scheduled in either the Qashqai or Asian-market-only Serena.

“Nissan has no plans to offer the Serena van in the Australian market at this time, when it comes to ProPilot, we can’t confirm it for Australia in any vehicle at this time,” he said.

The company said it plans to introduce the technology to US and Chinese markets and is developing multi-lane autonomous driving technology to deliver automatic lane changes on highways with functionality that is planned for 2018.

Nissan is aiming to have ready an autonomous driving mode for urban roads, with systems to negotiate metropolitan intersections, by 2020.

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