Nissan ProPilot Joins a Bumpy Road for Autonomous Driving Aids
With Tesla’s Autopilot under intense scrutiny, it seems like a strange time to launch an autonomous driving feature. But that’s exactly what Nissan has done, unveiling its new ProPilot system less than two weeks after we learned of the first fatal autonomous Tesla crash.
Nissan’s system, which will be available on new Serena minivan models in Japan as soon as next month, is able to take control of accelerating, braking, and steering. The automaker claims that it can handle highway driving as well as stop-and-go traffic in a single lane.
Much like Tesla’s Autopilot, the system is reported to use an onboard camera and image-processing software to recognize vehicles and road markings. The system controls the position of the car relative to the vehicle in front, while driving at speeds between 20 mph and 60 mph.
Nissan’s executive vice president, Hideyuki Sakamoto, has been quick to point out the limitations of the technology, explaining that “these functions are meant to support drivers, and are not meant as self-driving capabilities." The point isn’t to be able to take your hands off the wheel, according to Nissan—though that is possible.
Like Tesla’s system, when the driver removes their hands from the wheel, a warning is shown on the dashboard. However, unlike Autopilot, ProPilot will deactivate if the driver doesn’t replace their hands upon the wheel after several seconds. That final feature may prove to be a strength for ProPilot in the eyes of regulators.
Three Tesla crashes involving Autopilot are now under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, though only one proved fatal. In that incident, the driver was killed when his car hit the side of truck that the autonomous system failed to detect. Data from the vehicle suggests none of the car’s controls were used by the driver immediately before impact.
The recent events surrounding Tesla’s Autopilot make it an awkward time to roll out an autonomous driving features of any kind. Over the coming weeks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will consider evidence regarding the recent crashes—potentially publishing guidelines that shape the future of self-driving cars.
(Read more: Reuters, Bloomberg, Pocket-Lint, “Tesla Investigations Could Question Viability of Semi-Autonomous Driving,” “Fatal Tesla Autopilot Crash Is a Reminder Autonomous Cars Will Sometimes Screw Up”)
Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build
“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”
ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it
The narrative around cheating students doesn’t tell the whole story. Meet the teachers who think generative AI could actually make learning better.
Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives
The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.
Learning to code isn’t enough
Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.