Electric vehicles news brief July 10: Nissan hopes to lead in Autonomous EV technology

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Photo: Nissan Motor Co.

Nissan sees autonomous driving as long-term process that begins with enhanced safety technology, but will one day end in true self-driving cars

Self driving electric cars are the Next Big Thing in the automotive industry and no automaker wants to be left behind. Manufacturers – see Volvo’s recent announcement that by 2019 all its cars will have an electric motor – are frantically competing to not only develop the autonomous driving technology, which is a very difficult feat, but also to ensure that consumers are aware of their efforts.

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Automakers know that when the times comes, buyers want to have confidence that self-driving cars are safe, affordable, and convenient. That means staying front and centre in the AEV public relations sweepstakes.

Nissan is well known for its LEAF electric vehicle, but not as recognized for its autonomous driving technology. In this brief, we review some of Nissan’s efforts to grab the brass ring of AEV technology development.

New Nissan LEAF will feature ProPILOT Assist, Nissan’s driver-assistance technology that reduces the hassle of stop-and-go highway driving

ProPILOT Assist supports drivers by helping control acceleration, braking and steering during single-lane driving on the highway.

In the coming years, Nissan’s ProPILOT technology will offer increasing levels of autonomy, with the system eventually able to navigate city intersections.

Set to help make driving more secure and more enjoyable, ProPILOT Assist is part of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the company’s blueprint for transforming how cars are driven, powered and integrated into society.

By launching the LEAF, the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle, Nissan established itself as a pioneer in the EV movement. Today the Nissan LEAF is the world’s best-selling electric vehicle with more than 270,000 sold worldwide.

Nissan explains EV self-driving technology to Washington lawmakers, regulators

Andy Christensen, senior manager, Nissan Technical Center North America in Michigan, says Nissan’s perspective is different from other approaches that seem focused only on removing the driver from the driving experience.

Nissan’s philosophy is not to simply replace the driver in an automated vehicle. Instead, Nissan wants to enhance the driver’s experience by introducing technologies that make cars more intelligent and more exciting partners.

“Someday, when drivers want, the technology will be available to do the driving task for them,” said Christensen. “But at Nissan, we see the driver remaining engaged and integral well into the future.”

It’s really an evolution, he says. Traditionally, how to drive the car “was always left up to the human driver.”

That’s changing, according to Christensen: “Working in the area of driving automation is a completely new challenge since we are now trying to develop sensors and systems that can understand and adapt as well as human drivers.”

As technology begins to tackle the complicated task of driving, today’s driver will first experience systems assisting them, such as Nissan ProPILOT Assist, while they remain in full control.

“With continued advances in sensor and processing technology, more of the driving task will eventually be able to transfer from the driver to the system and ultimately allow the driver to do something other than drive the vehicle,” said Christensen.

Maarten Sierhuis, director, Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley, and Tracy Woodard, director, Government Affairs, Nissan North America, joined Christensen in sharing Nissan’s perspective on the future of autonomous vehicles at a June forum the company hosted in Washington, D.C. to familiarize lawmakers, regulators and other U.S. government officials a close look at how Nissan is “in the driver’s seat when it comes to automated drive technologies.”

Woodard said hosting the event was important to “showcasing our approach to autonomous vehicles and leadership in how we are going about thoughtful rollout of these technologies.”

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Nissan conducts on-road autonomous vehicle testing in Europe

As part of its commitment to creating a zero-emission, zero-fatality future for mobility, Nissan in Feb. showed off its real-world testing of next generation autonomous drive prototype vehicles taking place in the east of London.

This is the first time that Nissan has demonstrated its latest autonomous drive technology on public roads in Europe. Nissan has already conducted public-road testing in Japan and the United States to pursue easy-to-use autonomous drive technology in real life situations.

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Photo: Screenshot of Nissan video.

Participants in the passenger and rear seats were given the opportunity to experience the technology, which consists of millimetre-wave radar, laser scanners, cameras, high-speed computer chips, and a specialized HMI (Human Machine Interface).

All of this helps allow the vehicle to operate in an autonomous manner on both highway and city/urban roads including runabouts once the destination points are entered into the navigation system.

“This test of Nissan’s forthcoming autonomous drive technology in the demanding conditions of London streets underlines our commitment to delivering Nissan Intelligent Mobility to our customers,” said Takao Asami, senior vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering at Nissan.

The London test follows announcements that the updated Qashqai and the new Nissan LEAF, both coming in the near future, will be equipped with ProPILOT autonomous drive technology to enable single lane autonomous driving on motorways. Meanwhile, last year in Japan, Nissan launched the Serena, its first model to be fitted with ProPILOT.

Nissan zero-emissions vehicles to total 20% of company’s European sales by 2020

Nissan Motor Co expects that zero-emission cars will make up to 20 per cent of its sales in Europe by 2020, Gareth Dunsmore, Electric Vehicle (EV) Director for Nissan Europe said in a statement.

Last week, Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot said France would aim to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 and become carbon neutral 10 years later.

Nissan said it welcomed France’s commitment to reward those who choose more sustainable vehicles.

“By 2020, where the market conditions are right, I’m confident we’ll be selling up to 20 percent of our volume as zero emissions vehicles and this will only grow,” Dunsmore was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

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