Subaru, Nissan hit highway with affordable self-driving – Nikkei Asian Review

TOKYO — Autonomous-driving systems that function on highways are becoming affordable and easy to buy in Japan, spurring the industry to shift focus toward a more versatile offering that can handle local roads as well.

Subaru will release a revamped version of the Levorg wagon in August, and the mainstay model will offer a self-driving system that operates on a single highway lane. The enhancement raises the vehicle’s price between 20,000 yen and 100,000 yen ($181-$907).

The system, which builds upon Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assistance technology introduced in 2010, uses two cameras to detect lane markers and a vehicle ahead. It controls the steering to stay in the center of the lane, as well as using acceleration and braking to maintain a proper distance from the vehicle in front.

Nissan Motor offers similar technology for about 140,000 yen in the X-Trail sport utility vehicle that debuted Thursday. Versions equipped with the ProPilot system for autonomous driving on a single highway lane start from around 2.55 million yen.

The company introduced a Serena minivan with a single-lane, highway auto-drive system in August 2016. The option package for the X-Trail carries limited features compared with the Serena, and is around 100,000 yen cheaper. About 80% of pre-orders include the ProPilot option, underscoring strong demand from consumers.

Nissan aims to develop a fully autonomous vehicle that can handle more complex, local roads, and the automaker positions highway driving as an initial stage.

Toyota Motor on Thursday rolled out the new Harrier SUV, which comes with a collision avoidance system in all grades that detects pedestrians and maintains distances with the vehicle ahead at speeds of 50kph to 100kph. The price premium for the lowest grade of the SUV is just 69,480 yen compared with the older counterpart.

Auto-brake functions — one of the most basic features of autonomous driving — have become standard offerings for many manufacturers including for minicars, which are popular among women and the elderly in Japan. Daihatsu Motor’s Mira e:S minicar, released in May and priced in the 900,000-yen range, is equipped with a collision avoidance assist feature. More than 80% of orders include the system, Daihatsu says.

Autonomous vehicles use cameras and sensors to collect data on the surrounding environment, and the central processing unit gives instructions based on the data. As the system for single-highway-lane driving becomes more inexpensive and commonplace, manufacturers gradually are turning to a more comprehensive, versatile system.

Honda Motor said Thursday it aims to roll out a vehicle that can drive itself on local roads by around 2025, a rare move to specify such a time frame. The company seeks to reach a midpoint of lane-changing highway driving by 2020. Honda hopes that clear targets will accelerate technological advancement. Ahead of these goals, the automaker looks to make its Honda Sensing driver-assist package — which includes a collision-mitigation braking system — a standard feature, starting with the all-new N-Box to debut in the fall.


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