Nissan Motor Co Ltd launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions on Wednesday stressing they were intended to assist and not replace drivers, days after a similar technology caused a person’s death in a Tesla car. The feature, titled ProPilot, uses monocular camera to detect the field of vision, and combines it with Mobileye to process the visual feed and provides drivers with an immediate evaluation based on its analysis. The feature will first appear on a Serena minivan model on sale in Japan from next month. The Japanese company however warned about the features, saying they are different from hands-free driving.
How ProPilot works is quite easy. The driver pushes a button on the steering wheel, which keeps the vehicle a fixed distance from the car in the front, allowing drivers to relax since the feature doesn’t require drivers to engage the steering wheel, brakes or accelerator. Hence this feature is quite useful for high traffic situations, especially on long highways.
As global car manufacturers compete to develop self-driving cars, the reliability and safety of current automated transport systems was called into question by US investigators, saying a driver died in a crash while the autopilot of Tesla Model S was engaged.
While Nissan declined to comment directly on that incident, Executive Vice President Hideyuki Sakamoto said it was important drivers did not overestimate the purpose, capabilities of automated driving functions and always kept in mind the limitations of such technologies, no matter how enticing they may be.
Sakamoto said, “These functions are meant to support drivers, and are not meant as self-driving capabilities which let drivers take their eyes off the road. These are two very different things.”
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 believed it was up to automakers to teach drivers about the capability of automated driving functions to prevent misuse that could lead to accidents.
Tetsuya Iijima told reporters, “Naturally, there are limitations to the system, and our job is to communicate what those limitations are.” With the recent launch of ProPilot, Nissan joins many automakers including Tesla, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in marketing adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance.
Nissan will sell its ProPilot-equipped Serena for under 3,000,000 yen ($28,758), making it one of few mid-priced vehicles with autopilot features more common among luxury cars. The automaker also plans to add ProPilot to Qashqai sport utility vehicle crossover models in coming months, and introduce the feature in the United States and China. 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.
Debate Of Artificial Intelligence Versus The Human Brain
This recent change in landscape of artificial intelligence technology raises the age-old argument of the effectiveness of artificial intelligence as compared to human brain. As far as the scope of this technology is concerned it is virtually unlimited. For example, Researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, completed work on a European Union project aimed at advancing collaborative artificial intelligence where robots were enabled to coordinate with one another in the performance of complex tasks such as surgery, through body language. Hence it goes to show how far we have come as a species to advance this field by light years.
There’s a long way to go and it’s certainly far from being perfect, as these recent deaths show, at least in automobile technology. However, as things are progressing artificial intelligence still has a lot of potential and could even one day be able to replace the mother of all inventions, the human brain.