A Tesla Model S comes with, what is called, Level 2 autonomous driving features, something that allows the driver to simultaneously take his hands off the steering wheel and foot off the pedal for a short time. A Model S will set you back $80,000. Now, let's talk about what Nissan has been upto that would spur Tesla to sit for an emergency meeting. Nissan Serena minivan became the first model in its price bracket in Japan to offer the same Level autonomous tech at a price much smaller - $27,400.
Instead of introducing the self-driving tech in its luxury car brand Infiniti first, Nissan chose to do it with a mass market product. The result? Well, Serena has seen a massive 67% surge in sales in the August to May period, and is now the second best-selling model for the Japanese brand. The decision worked rather very well as 60% of the Serena buyers opted for the ProPilot driver-assist system.
Nissan has now taken the positive response to Serena to a next level by making the technology available on the new X-Trail SUV, its second best-selling car around the world. The tech loaded X-Trail went on sale in Japan on 8th June at a price tag of $24,500, and 80% of those who placed orders for it opted for the one with the ProPilot feature.
The company also plans to introduce this tech in more of its models, including the Qashqai that was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March and its electric car, the Leaf later this year.
The automaker, along with its alliance partners Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., plans to introduce 10 autonomous vehicles by 2020, Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci told Bloomberg without providing details.
It is because of the new Serena that Nissan has been able to overtake Honda in Japan for the first time in three years, excluding minicars. Nissan will be introducing autonomous features one by one in its cars, and says that by 2018 their cars will be able to change lanes and by 2020, they will be able to navigate through urban roads on their own.
Other manufacturers like Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Subaru Corp. offer Level 1 autonomous tech that includes lane keeping and adaptive cruise control, but the driver cannot take his hands off the steering wheel or foot off the pedal.
With all the talks of the automotive industry moving on to autonomous driving features, it is still too early to gauge when would these features be available in mass market cars in India. In terms of autonomous driving features, many cars on sale in India offer cruise control and the BMW 7 Series can actually reverse and park itself. The driving scenario in our country is a bit more difficult for self-driving cars to adapt to. Hoping for the best, perhaps we will have a car that allows the driver to eat a sandwich with both hands, but that is still very far out in the future.