Nissan is introducing a new technology called ProPilot Assist which helps drivers stay in their lane and at a safe distance from the car in front of them.
Nissan is testing a new technology called ProPilot Assist. It can control the gas and steering wheel for less driver fatigue. It's not a fully automated technology - as drivers are still required to keep their hands on the wheel - but it's a step in that direction.
I recently tried out the technology on the streets of Los Angeles - well, actually the freeways. I was in one of a handful of prototype Nissan Rogue SUV's that have the tech added on. Engineers added some sensors and cameras to the SUV to give it the high-tech features.
Behind the wheel, it was pretty simple to activate. Once you're at a good cruising speed on the freeway, just touch a button to activate the ProPilot Assist feature. The dashboard lets you know if the computers have a good feel for the lines on the road. If not, it won't let the feature activate.
Once activated, ProPilot Assist literally takes control of the wheel and gas pedal. The system senses the car in front of you and keeps a safe following distance. You can also feel the wheel turning under your hands as the car follows the curves of the road.
If you take your hands off the wheel, you will get a gentle reminder to put them back on. The system is meant to assist the driver and not take over the driver's responsibilities.
The technology is not necessarily new - several other car brands, including Nissan's own Infinity luxury brand - have similar semi-automated features. The difference here is that Nissan is going to make this an affordable option for its everyday car lineup - so it's not just limited to premium brands with expensive price tags.
As for me, I love what is happening in the self-driving car space and it's great that companies like Nissan continue to push the envelope. ProPilot Assist is especially handy for Los Angeles' stop and go freeway traffic. With it, the car can literally inch down a crowded freeway all by itself, saving the driver from a lot of fatigue. On the flip side, when it comes to open freeway driving, I'm torn. Adaptive cruise control is a great help on long trips. And, while it's nice that the car can also follow the curves of the road, at this point since the system isn't confident enough for hands off the wheel driving, it seems easier to just leave this feature off, and let the humans do the work until the robots are ready to really take over.