Nissan Motor Co Ltd launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions on Wednesday stressing they were intended to assist and not replace drivers.
Nissan’s ProPilot can drive a vehicle on single-lane motorways and navigate congestion. It said the feature will first appear on a Serena minivan model on sale in Japan from next month.
Pushing a button on the steering wheel activates ProPilot, which keeps the vehicle a fixed distance from the car in front without requiring the driver to control the steering, accelerator or brake.
Like Tesla’s similar technology, ProPilot requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. A warning sign flashes if the wheel is released for more than around four seconds, and an alarm sounds after 10 seconds.
General Manager Tetsuya Iijima at Nissan’s Advanced Technology Development department said it was up to automakers to educate drivers about the capability of automated driving functions to prevent misuse that could lead to accidents.
With ProPilot, Nissan joins many automakers including Tesla, BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in marketing adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance.
Nissan will sell its ProPilot-equipped Serena for under 3 million yen ($28,758), making it one of few mid-priced vehicles with autopilot features more common among luxury cars.
Nissan continues to aim for autonomous multiple-lane driving, including lane changes, by 2018, and functions for full urban driving, including intersection turns, by 2020.