Nissan has made quite a hoopla regarding the ProPILOT system in the new Nissan Serena – which is slated to go on sale in Japan in late August – billing it as a first step towards fully-autonomous driving. To make things a little clearer to the layperson, it has released some information and a couple of videos to explain how the whole thing works.

ProPILOT may be Nissan’s umbrella moniker for its autonomous drive systems, but the single-lane system in the Serena is little more than adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go traffic capabilities and steering assist – much like the systems fitted to the W222 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Volvo XC90. Nissan claims it’s the first Japanese carmaker to control the steering, brakes and throttle fully automatically – although we do take that rather ambitious assertion with a pinch of salt.

The main difference between Nissan’s approach and those of other manufacturers is that it doesn’t use a radar to detect the distance of the vehicle in front – ProPILOT makes use of just a single mono camera at the top of the windscreen, the same one used for the Serena’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system.

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Said camera is equipped with advanced image-processing software that can recognise three-dimensional depth, allowing it to detect both the vehicle in front and lane markers. Based on the information from the camera, the high-speed processor controls the steering, brakes and throttle, keeping a set distance from the vehicle in front at speeds of between 30 and 100 km/h.

Like other advanced adaptive cruise control systems, the system will keep the Serena in the centre of the lane – even on gentle highway curves – and will automatically apply the brakes to bring it to a complete stop if the vehicle in front does the same. Once the vehicle in front sets off again, the driver can reactivate ProPILOT by pushing the resume button on the steering wheel or by lightly pressing the accelerator pedal.

The ProPILOT autonomous driving system will continue to be developed, with Nissan planning to introduce multi-lane highway capabilities – including autonomous lane changes, putting it in the same league as Tesla’s Autopilot system – in 2018, and autonomous driving in urban environments and intersections by 2020, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics.


GALLERY: New Nissan Serena