I've already been impressed by Nissan's ProPilot Assist system. Available on our old , plus a number of other Nissan and Infiniti vehicles, in my experience it does a good job of keeping the car centered in its lane on the highway while automatically speeding up and slowing down to match traffic. Perhaps not as advanced as systems like Tesla's Autopilot, it's far more affordable and widely available.
The march of progress continues, however, and there's a new system coming to market. Called ProPilot 2.0, this new version takes things to the logical next step, letting you actually take your hands off the wheel. As of today this system is only available in Japan, specifically in the Skyline sedan, so that's where I headed to test it.
Leaving the dense city streets of Tokyo, I took the Skyline up onto the Shuto Expressway -- which to be fair is still pretty cramped. Tokyo roads of all colors are more compact than their American counterparts, and given the constant volume of traffic around me I was thankful for ProPilot keeping me centered in the lane while I delivered my lines to the camera. Just like before, the system is enabled via a blue button on the steering wheel.
I had to get a little further afield before the magic of ProPilot 2.0 kicked in, however. The more advanced step of the system is only available on certain stretches of highway that have been mapped in high-definition, and those stretches must also meet certain criteria for things like corner density and toll booths.
Eventually, the green steering wheel icon displayed on the gauge cluster (and projected through the heads-up display) turned blue, and at that point I was able to fully take my hands off the wheel. But not my eyes off the road. The Nissan Skyline here features an infrared camera in the dashboard, constantly watching to make sure I was paying attention. Whenever I looked away for more than a few seconds, I got a polite prompt to pay attention.
That steering wheel itself has also been upgraded, now featuring a capacitive touch sensor to detect your hands more accurately. The car also sports additional radar sensors in the front which look diagonally left and right, providing a better view of the road ahead. These work in concert with optical and sonar sensors scanning in all directions.
The system worked well overall during my couple hours behind the wheel, slowing abruptly when at one point someone cut me off (yes, in Japan!), but otherwise just motoring along cleanly. When necessary, the system handed control back to me with a series of intuitive chimes and prompts. Yes, ProPilot Assist 2.0 is still a long way from autonomy, but it does make for a somewhat more relaxing driving experience -- especially when stuck in traffic.
ProPilot 2.0 is available in Japan in the Skyline presently. No word yet on when we might be seeing it in the US. Again, since the system relies on high-definition maps it may take some time. But, once it does get here, I have a feeling Nissan will ensure it spreads across their product line far more quickly than Cadillac has thus-far managed with Super Cruise.