The Nissan Leaf electric vehicle has received an all-new look for the 2018 model year. With this makeover comes the option for a brand-new Leaf feature: ProPilot Assist, a set of self-driving car capabilities. Does ProPilot make Leaf a truly autonomous car? No, but it may make daily commutes and weekend trips a little less stressful for the driver.
Driving Made Easier With ProPilot Assist
With the press of a button, drivers can switch the Nissan Leaf into ProPilot Assist mode. Once the system is engaged, drivers get to relax a little as they relinquish some control over getting from point A to point B.
What is ProPilot Assist? It’s Nissan’s version of vehicle semi-automation. In addition to cameras on all sides of the car, sonar and radar systems help the car track traffic patterns, road markings, and the presence of other vehicles. Armed with that information, the car assists with driving.
Drivers select the speed at which they’d like to cruise down the highway, and the car maintains that speed. Don’t mistake it for standard cruise control, however. Unlike traditional systems, this one is adaptive. Sensing other cars and the flow of traffic, ProPilot slows or stops the car as needed.
This semi-automatic system also detects lane markings and can provide steering and guidance to help the car follow the road. It can even tackle gradual curves.
ProPilot Assist works at speeds up to 90 mph. In general, it starts working at speeds of 20 mph or more, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. In settings where thick traffic is limiting the car’s speed, ProPilot can work even when the Leaf is going less than 20 mph.
Of course, the Leaf is not a truly autonomous car. Drivers must be engaged, alert, and ready to step in at any time. Even still, letting the car take care of some steering, braking, and centering lets drivers breathe a little easier when they’re behind the wheel.
How to Get ProPilot
To drive a ProPilot-assisted car, drivers must be willing to shell out some extra cash. Nissan is including ProPilot in the optional Technology Package on the 2018 Leaf SV and SL. It’s not available with the Leaf S, which is the base model of this electric car.
What else the Technology Package includes varies between the SV and SL because some of the features included with the SV’s Technology Package come standard on the SL. However, whether the features come standard on the vehicle or are added through the package, every SV or SL with the Technology Package will have:
- Blind Spot Warning to alert drivers to adjacent cars when they are trying to change lanes
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert to help drivers stay apprised of nearby vehicles as they back out of parking spaces
- High Beam Assist to automatically adjust headlamp brightness based on whether there are other cars around
- Electronic Parking Brake that drivers can engage just by pressing a button
- Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection that slows or brakes the car when a walker is crossing the street
- Intelligent Lane Intervention to correct departure from marked lanes
- Auto Dimming Rearview Mirror that reduces mirror brightness when it catches glare from a bright light
Technology for All Leaf Cars
Every trim level of the 2018 Leaf will include at least one self-driving car feature. Automatic Emergency Braking, which comes standard on every new Leaf, keeps an eye on what’s ahead in the lane. This system takes into account the speed of the car and the distance from another object to determine whether slowing down is necessary. If there’s a risk of collision, the car will warn the driver. If necessary, the system will automatically apply the brakes to slow down the car. Unlike the upgraded version that is included in the Technology Package, the standard system does not have Pedestrian Detection.
Additionally, every 2018 Leaf comes with e-Pedal, a one-foot driving system. As with most cars, the Leaf moves forward when the driver presses on the accelerator pedal. When e-Pedal is engaged, though, slowing or braking doesn’t require pressing on the brake. Instead, the Leaf slows or stops whenever the driver releases the accelerator pedal.
What’s Coming Next for Leaf
Those interested in an electric vehicle with self-driving car capabilities may want to wait one more year before purchasing a Nissan Leaf. Yes, the 2018 Leaf is available with ProPilot Assist to help drivers on the road, but the next model will also lend a hand to drivers at the end of the trip.
The 2019 Leaf is set to include ProPilot Park. This autonomous car feature will guide the electric vehicle into parking spots. It will allow the driver to make on-screen adjustments to the car’s final parking position, and it will work for both parallel and perpendicular parking.