Can The Nissan Leaf Really Drive Itself?

May 6, 2022

The Nissan Leaf, which stands for leading environmentally-friendly affordable family car, is a one hundred percent electric five-door hatchback made by Nissan. It was introduced to the United States in 2010 followed by Canada in 2011. As of December of 2016, the Leaf became the world's best-selling highway capable electric car with more than two hundred and fifty units sold. Thanks to its guidance system, called Autonomous Drive, the Leaf can also operate itself.

As extraordinary as it seems, Nissan plans to bring self-driving cars to the mass market. By the year 2020, Nissan will sell a car with self-driving capabilities in areas where laws allow it. A few years after that, Nissan plans to have one that can operate on city roads if all goes well. The automotive company brought the Leaf to be tested on the roads of Silicon Valley in the United States, where it reportedly had success driving around a reporter from Fortune. Several public tests have been done since then, including one with the tops at Top Gear.

The self-driving prototype is equipped with twelve cameras all around its body, plus five radars and four laser scanners, which create a detailed map of the car’s surroundings. The car also had high-resolution maps in the car so it can correlate with the outside world. The Leaf also uses information stored in the cloud to determine the position of other vehicles or unexpected occurrences on the road. The Autonomous Drive system operates the steering, braking and accelerating as it moves with the flow of traffic. It even makes adjustments to keep a safe distance from other vehicles and changes lanes on its own.

Nissan plans to gradually offer several self-driving features to commercial vehicles as soon as the cost is low enough for bulking up mainstream cars and it is safe enough to do so. Typical features may include hands-free lane changing and autonomous driving in traffic jams. The technology and sensors needed to perform the above-mentioned test-drives are more than the price that would be used on commercial vehicles. According to Nissan’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, the car company wants to add autonomous features to ten vehicles over the next four years with the help of its partner, the French automotive maker Renault.

The self-driving trend has taken hold of the automotive industry with manufacturers such as Ford, Toyota, General Motors, and Volkswagen all taking an interest. But self-driving cars will not just have to learn how to follow the rules of the road. They will also need to read other drivers, which can be a tricky thing to teach. According to Nissan engineer Tesuya Iijima, “It needs deep learning and I don’t know how long that will take.”

Nissan is currently working on “Seamless Autonomous Mobility,” which allows the driver to navigate the self-driving Leaf through obstacles it cannot figure out on its own, such as an obstruction in the road. So at least for the time being, humans will still need to be paying attention to the road even when driving in a self-driving vehicle.