The car is an advanced prototype Infiniti Q50 sedan capable of handling complex city driving. It has a special California registration for autonomous drive vehicles, and I had to receive a special state license to operate it hands-free.
What struck me was how quickly I grew comfortable as the car smoothly and safely negotiated the suburban streets, including intersections and dense traffic. Accompanied by a Nissan engineer, we simply set the destination, put the car in autonomous drive mode, and off we went – safely, without a hitch.
Ghosn explains more: “We went on both the freeway and city streets; there were times when other drivers cut in on us, but never did we feel threatened. Each time the car anticipated the other car’s move and reacted appropriately.”
No one likes traffic — lanes clogged during rush hour and irritating with long bouts in start-and-stop traffic. Even for those who like to drive, that time spent in an autonomous vehicle would offer a lessening of the tense irritability of dangerous and congested traffic. At the end of a long work day, navigating traffic with improved safety (autonomous) features provides more benefits for human well-being. With time to relax on the way home, one might contemplate the oncoming evening, or productively finish last-minute emails. Quietly winding down the work day without the added stress of erratic traffic navigation would be a big improvement for many humans.
Concerned about air pollution, I stepped into the gentler future with the Nissan Leaf — I get to enjoy smoother driving with an EV that has zero direct emissions — but an autonomous LEAF would offer yet another huge leap forward in the user experience.
I can turn the wheel of the LEAF with my finger — it moves so adeptly and springs lightly with immense agility. Still, the safety features of an autonomous EV offer another light speed into not only a cleaner future but a safer future.
Here are more details from Nissan:
As I mentioned in a recent post, cars that can change lanes on their own, negotiate city streets and handle the drudgery of stop-and-go traffic are coming soon. In fact, the Renault-Nissan Alliance has committed to launch at least 10 models with significant autonomous drive functionality by 2020.
As these technologies advance, the auto industry has an unprecedented opportunity to make our roads much safer while giving drivers a less stressful and more productive commuting experience.