Back at the start of the month, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn gave a keynote presentation at CES 2017 during which he previewed Nissan’s latest autonomous vehicle technology — Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM). Developed in collaboration with NASA, SAM is designed to accelerate the mass market adoptability of autonomous vehicles by integrating advanced artificial intelligence with a remote system that allows specially-trained ‘mobility managers’ to diagnose and assist autonomous vehicles that have come across a real-world situation they cannot deal with on their own.
At the same time, Ghosn promised that the next-generation Nissan LEAF, a car he said would be “coming very soon”, will feature the latest production-ready version of Nissan’s Pro Pilot software. This particular iteration of Pro Pilot, designed for suburban and extra-urban highway use, will be similar in functionality to the Pro Pilot system debuted in Nissan’s Japanese-market Serena Minivan last year, and is a precursor to a multi-lane Pro-Pilot system Nissan will bring to market in 2018.
Both systems are designed for highway use, with full autonomous city-center capabilities not due to arrive on Nissan vehicles until sometime around 2023.
Despite this however, Nissan announced on Friday last week that it would be bringing prototype autonomous Nissan LEAFs to London, England to demonstrate and test its autonomous vehicle technology in the UK’s capital city.
It would be easy then to conclude that Nissan is bringing a prototype of its fully-autonomous vehicle technology to one of the world’s most congested capital cities in order to fully put it through its paces, especially since during his keynote presentation earlier this month Ghosn said that Nissan already has fully-autonomous prototypes ready for road testing on the roads in and around Renault-Nissan’s Silicon Valley Technical Center. But while the streets of London would certainly provide Nissan with a baptism of fire for its city-center ProPilot autonomous vehicle technology, we’re reading into something a little different in Nissan’s press release: it’s bringing its autonomous LEAF prototypes to London as part of a demonstration program designed to make it easier for autonomous vehicles to gain approval for public use.
This includes demonstrating Nissan’s autonomous vehicle technology to private and public stakeholders, including Governmental officials and politicians charged with ensuring any autonomous vehicle legislation is appropriately constructed and implemented, technical and safety experts, and representatives from the insurance industry — who will have to provide appropriate insurance products for their customers to use.
In other words, Nissan’s plan to begin what it calls “on-road demonstrations” next month in London is primarily for lobbying and educational purposes. While we’re sure the self-driving LEAFs Nissan is planning to put on the streets of London will also collect countless terabytes of data that Nissan will be able to use to help refine its autonomous vehicle technology, it won’t be Nissan’s primary concern.
Don’t feel though that Nissan’s London-based autonomous demonstration project will be the only autonomous cars from Nissan we’ll see driving on the UK’s roads, as the UK has already invested more than £100 million over the past few years to fund and execute a series of autonomous vehicle trails across the UK, with technical pilot projects in Greenwich, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Bristol to name but a few of the many involved cities.
Indeed, one of Nissan’s biggest technical centers is located a short drive from Milton Keynes, adjacent to the famous Cranfield University technical institution known for its excellent automotive engineering faculty. It’s likely then (although not certain) that following Nissan’s London demonstration of autonomous LEAFs, we can expect larger-scale autonomous vehicle testing from the Japanese automaker across the UK.
While this is the first time Nissan has brought its autonomous vehicle technology to Europe, Nissan has of course several years of fully-autonomous vehicle test programs under its belt in both the U.S. and Japan. And as announced at CES, Nissan is about to start a new autonomous commercial vehicle pilot project in Japan in collaboration with Japanese Internet company DeNA .
Do you look forward to owning a fully-autonomous car? And how do you think Nissan’s autonomous LEAF prototypes will cope with the hustle and bustle of busy London streets?
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