Introduced on the Nissan Serena minivan in Japan last year, ProPilot technology aims to simplify driving for Nissan owners who have it included on their vehicle and thus improve overall comfort.
ProPilot is not revolutionary in the industry, and we find similar technologies among German manufacturers, in particular. However, such devices remain reserved for expensive luxury vehicles while Nissan wants to offer it for the first time in North America on the next generation of the Nissan Leaf before introducing it to other models in its lineup down the road.
ProPilot technology is activated by means of a button on the steering wheel when the speed is higher than 32 km/h. Once activated, it uses a camera, radar and various sensors to keep the car in its lane on the highway while maintaining a pre-established distance with the vehicles ahead.
Concretely, the car follows the road and can even turn by itself in the curves you encounter, and it can apply the brakes automatically until a complete stop as well. The driver will feel the steering wheel turning under his hands, and he will see the steering wheel moving if he takes his hands off.
On the other hand, Nissan is clear that this is not an autonomous driving system. The driver must keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times and remain vigilant. If you remove your hands, a series of warnings leading to a complete stop will follow. The aim is not to remove responsibility from the driver, but to reduce fatigue and improve driving pleasure.
After testing the technology on the highways near Detroit, I can say that it works well in that it is not too reactive or harsh in its corrections, but that indeed you must remain vigilant. I also found that the vehicle tended to be too close to the other lane and to the vehicles that were passing. There was an oh-crap moment where I had to put the car back in its lane because the system had failed to recognize the lines (that’s my theory, anyway). And, if you can’t see the lines, the system won’t work.
Similar systems offered on much more expensive vehicles have the same problem, so there is no reason to criticize Nissan here. Ultimately, some drivers will like ProPilot and others will not, and the good news is that it is possible to disable it or simply not to use it if we are in the second category.