In summer of 2016 the Japanese car manufacturers have strengthened their mass production of the ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System). Among them, Nissan is the most aggressive manufacturer.
Nissan's autonomous driving system is named “ProPILOT”. The new Nissan “SERENA” is the first vehicle to adopt the “ProPILOT”. The autonomous driving system in the SERENA is currently just for same lane automatic driving. Nissan includes the advanced ADAS as their autonomous driving system and the plan is to deploy the same lane automatic driving in their car for 2016. Nissan plans to add multi lane automatic driving in 2018 with higher technology autonomous driving systems to follow in 2020.
Some media sources say “SERENA's ProPILOT is just for the same lane automatic driving. Because of this it should only be included in the ADAS category and should not be considered an autonomous driving system. Furthermore the naming could cause issues because of potential misunderstands to users that do not understand the difference between the ProPILOT specification and a completely autonomous driving system”. Nissan took objection to these media sources and said “In order to eliminate any misunderstanding, we have been educating and training all of our dealers thoroughly”.
One of the basic technologies Nissan is adopting for “same lane” automatic driving is the image recognition technology provided by Mobileye, a professional Israel image recognition company. Mobileye is also providing their image recognition related analytic technology to GM, Volvo and Audi. A monocular camera hardware is used with Mobileye's technology. The manufacturers of the monocular camera are large Western companies. Nissan is using TRW's American ZF product. Other car manufactures are using a millimeter wave radar plus a monocular camera for front environment recognition, however Nissan is using a monocular camera only.
In the beginning of September the media test ride event for the new SERENA was held in Nissan headquarters. The test ride route was the Metropolitan Expressway and Yokohama area. I rode in the car and experienced the same lane automatic driving. The operation was very easy and required pressing just two buttons. First pressing the button on the steering and then pressing the set button.
The same lane automatic driving technology has two functions. One is following a forward car with a possible speed setting between 30 to 115 kilometers per hour. The second function is to keep car the driving in middle of the lane by recognizing the lane lines. Once this function is set when the car is being driven under 50 kilometers per hour, the function only allows engagement when following another car. When the car is being driven over 50 kilometers per hour, the function allows engagement regardless of following another car or not.
According to Nissan's engineer the same lane automatic driving function can be set for highway and local road driving, but the requirement for local roads are stricter than the highway. I operated on both during the test ride. When I was on the highway the setting engaged quickly, but when I was on the local road the setting took longer to engage. I asked the engineer for the local road requirements but he said he could not display it. However he told me that there is no difference regarding how the actual highway and local road recognition is done. Nissan uses image information from the camera only and does not use GPS or “around view” monitor information for the recognition solution. Nissan is currently working on the research and development for multi lane automatic driving and expects mass production in 2018. The engineer said “For multi lane automatic driving a millimeter wave radar is needed for lane changing capability”.
SUBARU is a company that has been leading the ADAS development in Japanese car manufactures. The ADA（Active Driving Assist）deployed in “Lancaster” in 1999 was their first ADAS system. Afterward they released their own advanced ADAS system named “EyeSight” which was very famous using the TV commercial catchphrase “collision avoidance car”. After 2010 SUBARU lowered the “EyeSight” price and set it as a DOP. It was very successful and sales of “EyeSight” increased rapidly.
The new “IMPREZA” was announced on July, 2016, will be released this fall and has “EyeSight” as standard equipment. According to a SUBARU engineer, the “EyeSight” deployed in the new “IMPREZA” is an improved version called “EyeSight version3”. One change is the distance setting between followed cars is improved. SUBARU tested it in Japan and found that thanks to this new improvement the car drove similar to an autonomous vehicle.
In the new “IMPREZA” the airbag for pedestrians is enabled when using “EyeSight”. This airbag deploys under the windshield when needed. It is designed to protect pedestrians who have contact with the hood after being struck by the front bumper because it opens outward, toward the pedestrians. Along with these safety features the price should also be attractive to buyers because the least expensive one is less than two million Japanese Yen.
Including the above mentioned Nissan and SUBARU, car manufactures have many sales in Western countries and are in the process of improving their ADAS systems. The reason is they need to support the NCAP’s collision standard. To Japanese car manufactures the biggest concern is the revisions to pedestrian protection that start from 2016 and 2018 by the European NCAP. The night pedestrian protection will be added to the revision in 2018. Because of the European NCAP the importance of pedestrian protection will also increase in the JNCAP, the Japanese NCAP and related assessments in the US. The Japanese car manufactures are working to include a completely autonomous driving system in their ADAS program in the future. They will also need to first evaluate each region’s requirements separately. The purpose of this assessment is different from other kinds of regulation like exhaust fumes, CO2 etc. The purpose is to provide useful information to consumers by reviewing each kind of test result held by the public institutions. Car sales are influenced by these assessments and can result in car manufacturer gains.
His major is the world automotive industry and he is also familiar with the energy industry, IT and the aging society problem as the related fields. He acts around the world based in Japan and USA and writes for the general magazines, the technology journals and the automotive related media etc.
He is also commentator of motor race and world's motor show on TV program based on his career of the driver of Indy Racing League and NASCAR. In recent years, he has been covering about a paradigm shift from developed countries to developing countries, the motorized vehicle like EV and the telematics.