Exploring Nissan’s Autonomous Car

April 15th, 2016 by

Would you trust a car you didn’t have to drive? If Nissan has its way, you’ll have the option to do so as early as 2020. Autonomous cars are all the rage among top automakers, but Nissan is setting this developing technology apart in several notable ways.

How Nissan is Developing the Technology

Nissan and Renault have come together to work on autonomous automobile technology. The Renault-Nissan Alliance plans to start bringing autonomous vehicles to drivers everywhere as soon as 2020. The plan sounds ambitious, but Nissan is working with MIT, Stanford, Oxford, the University of Tokyo, and Carnegie Mellon to move to the head of the pack of autonomous automakers.

Some of the plans include rolling out autonomous features in future car models. They’re hoping to create and launch at least 10 autonomous cars by 2020, though these vehicles probably won’t be truly and totally autonomous. Instead, you can expect an increased number of self-driving features as 2020 approaches. This year, Nissan is introducing a feature called single-lane control. In highway and city traffic, the car will be able to navigate by itself as long as it stays in one lane.

By 2018, Nissan is aiming for multi-lane control, which takes single-lane control and adds lane-changing and passing to the car’s autonomous repertoire. The multi-lane control will, as of 2018 anyway, only work on the highway. City lanes are too narrow and unpredictable.

The features in 2020 revolve around intersection autonomy. Cars with this technology should be able to navigate the heavy traffic of urban streets at lower speeds. A few self-driving technologies already exist in the cars we drive, including brake-assist and self-parking, but most automakers are reserving their more heavily autonomous features for test models. Not Nissan; This plan to unveil these features to the public every few years sets them apart from competitors.

Why the Car Isn’t Totally Autonomous

Other concept models of autonomous car are entirely self-driving. You could take a nap while the car was moving and end up at your destination without lifting a finger. Nissan isn’t going this route. Instead, Nissan is working on a car that will drive itself until a human wants to take over, or vice-versa.

One of the concerns with self-driving cars is that they can conceivably take to the road without any humans inside, which certainly raises some questions for insurance companies and the car owners themselves. Nissan’s self-parking car, for example, can parallel park itself and react to sudden objects in its path without relying on a human. It raises liability questions, because who is responsible for a car driving itself? Nissan’s solution to the problem is an app that puts technical control in the hands of the car’s driver. As far as autonomy goes, is anyone really going to miss having to parallel park?