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Stressing Difference from Hands Free Driving, Nissan Launches Auto Drive Features

Stressing Difference from Hands Free Driving, Nissan Launches Auto Drive Features
Following a string of accidents and the death of a driver riding a self driven car in the US and the US regulatory body investigating at least one such incident, Nissan Motor Co Ltd launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions on Wednesday.
However the Japanese car maker also stressed that the semi autonomous functions were intended to assist and not replace drivers, in stark contrast to what the other car makers of self driving cars claims.
The ProPilot can drive a vehicle on single-lane motorways and navigate congestion, said Japan's second-ranked carmaker by vehicle sales. Serena minivan model on sale in Japan from next month will be the first car of the company that will have the feature, Nissan said.  
The U.S. investigators have claimed that a driver died in a crash while the autopilot of his Tesla Motors Inc Model S was engaged and have raised several questions about the safety of current automated systems even as the global automakers race to develop self-driving cars.
Executive Vice President of Nissan, Hideyuki Sakamoto said it was important drivers did not overestimate the purpose and capabilities of automated driving functions even though the company itself officially declined to comment directly on that incident.
"These functions are meant to support drivers, and are not meant as self-driving capabilities" which let drivers take their eyes off the road, he said. "These are two very different things," he added.
The ProPilot feature keeps the vehicle a fixed distance from the car in front without requiring the driver to control the steering, accelerator or brake and this feature can be activated in a car fitted with the software by simply pushing a button on the steering wheel to activate it.
Drivers using ProPilot technology need to keep their hands on the wheel like Tesla's similar technology. If the wheel is released from the hand for more than 10 seconds an alarm if sounded and if the wheel if left free for more than around four seconds, a warning sign flashes inside the car.
It was up to automakers to educate drivers about the capability of automated driving functions to prevent misuse that could lead to accidents, said the General Manager Tetsuya Iijima at Nissan's Advanced Technology Development department.
"Naturally, there are limitations to the system, and our job is to communicate what those limitations are," he told reporters.
Marketing adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance, Nissan joins many automakers including Tesla, BMW and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz with the launch of ProPilot.
Making Serena one of few mid-priced vehicles with autopilot features more common among luxury cars, Nissan will sell its ProPilot-equipped Serena for under 3 million yen ($28,758).
The automaker also plans to introduce the feature in the United States and China and to add ProPilot to Qashqai sport utility vehicle crossover models in coming months.
Development of functions for full urban driving, including intersection turns, by 2020 and autonomous multiple-lane driving, including lane changes, by 2018 is the aim of Nissan.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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