The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Nissan Offers Self-Driving Feature Like Tesla's Autopilot

The most obvious improvement: Nissan isn't overselling the feature

1 min read
Nissan Offers Self-Driving Feature Like Tesla's Autopilot
Photo: Nissan

Nissan is about to offer a semiautonomous feature that’s quite like Tesla’s Autopilot. Not only does it sound like it—“ProPilot”—it also depends on a mono-camera sensor and on Mobileye processing.

Nissan is working very hard to emphasize the “semi” part of the word “semiautonomous,” billing ProPilot as an  improved form of cruise control—not as a robotic chauffeur that’s “almost twice as good as a person.” That’s what Tesla honcho Elon Musk said of Autopilot on 25 April, 12 days before a Tesla Model S under Autopilot control crashed into a truck, killing the car’s driver. It was the first fatality attributed to a modern, self-driving car.

Even Tesla has required drivers to hit the turn signal to trigger Autopilot’s automatic lane-changing feature. But Musk, at once a futurist and a salesman, has always had trouble restraining his own tendency to hype things.

With the Nissan, push a button and ProPilot maintains a fixed distance to the car in front of you, keeping within the lane and braking when necessary. Take your hands off the steering wheel, and it will nag you to put them back; ignore the nagging, and the system will cut off. 

“Naturally, there are limitations to the system, and our job is to communicate what those limitations are,” said Nissan General Manager Tetsuya Iijima, Reuters reports.

And Nissan customers are about as different from Tesla’s as you can get. ProPilot will initially be offered only in Japan, on the Nissan Serena, a staid and practical minivan. Tesla’s cars are feline, earth-clawing performance cars, and their mostly American drivers are, as you’d expect, a rather adventurous breed, to judge by the Youtube videos they post.

The Conversation (0)

We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

Keep Reading ↓Show less