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Nissan Leaf completes 230-mile autonomous trip across the UK

The Leaf tackled all types of roadways on its jaunt.

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Aside from the rig on the roof and a few extra sensors, this Leaf looks pretty much like any other.

Nissan

A Nissan-led project set out to achieve a fully autonomous trip across the UK to help promote and advance research in self-driving vehicles, and the group just achieved what it set out to.

Nissan announced on Wednesday that the HumanDrive project has successfully completed its first autonomous trip across the United Kingdom, even though it was achieved at the tail end of 2019. Over the course of 230 miles, a Nissan Leaf equipped with the hardware and software to enable autonomy made its way across the UK without any driver input.

This wasn't a cheater run made up entirely of razor-straight highways, either. Instead, the HumanDrive Leaf traversed all manner of roads, including roundabouts and expressways. Some roads lacked markings, making things even trickier. Yet, according to the Nissan-led consortium, this 30-month effort produced quite the serene drive. There was still a person in the driver's seat to ensure that nothing went haywire, but it appears his services weren't required.

"Safely completing the longest autonomous drive in Britain is an incredible achievement for Nissan and the HumanDrive consortium, and a huge step towards the rollout of driverless cars on UK streets," said Nadhim Zahawai, a British member of Parliament, in a statement. "This project is a shining example of how the automotive industry, working with government, can drive forward technology to benefit people's mobility  while helping to slash carbon emissions."

This is just a research project, so don't expect a self-driving Leaf in your driveway any time soon. However, HumanDrive's achievements with this run will help shape future AVs, whether it's through learning about how these cars react to certain situations or improving the underlying hardware and software that makes this all happen.

Right now, Nissan's production-spec driver assistance software can only hold a vehicle in a single lane on the highway. However, that ProPilot Assist system is set to receive a new version in the near future that will add even more capability, including the ability for the driver to take their hands off the wheel for stretches of time.