When I was growing up, I'd often hear the phrase, "First is the worst, second is the best." That may work on the playground, but it's a little less applicable in the real world. Nissan would certainly disagree with that childhood sentiment, as it's become the first Japanese automaker to introduce a semi-autonomous highway driving system.
Called ProPilot, this system is designed for long drives and jam-packed commutes. It uses a single camera mounted at the top of the windshield to gauge following distance and prevent collisions. The system takes control of the brakes, throttle and steering, but it will only operate in a single lane, unlike Tesla's Autopilot. (Can we start getting some more original names in this space, please?)
It will follow the car ahead at speeds between about 19 mph and 60 mph, whether on straightaways or curves. If traffic comes to a stop, ProPilot will stop the car and hold it in position. When traffic starts moving again, a quick tap of the gas is all it takes to re-engage ProPilot, similar to Mercedes' Distronic Plus.
ProPilot will only be available in Japan when it debuts in August, and it'll only be on the Nissan Serena van. But the company has plans to introduce it to Europe in 2017, followed by the US and China. From there, Nissan will expand its system to include multi-lane operation -- but that's not in the cards until 2018.