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Relax, your Qashqai can drive for you

Nissan introduces Piloted Drive on mega-selling SUV. Could it transfer to the GT-R?

Nissan isn’t hanging about with embracing autonomous technology. The first in a three-stage roll out of the tech – called Piloted Drive 1.0 - has been introduced at the Geneva show, fitted to the Nissan Qashqai. But it’s just the beginning of Nissan’s driverless master plan.

The schedule looks like this: Piloted Drive 1.0 is on sale in 2017 and lets the Qashqai (soon followed by other models) drive and steer itself in slow moving traffic and on the motorway (although you need to rest your hand on the wheel). Next up, in 2018, is a system that will change lane, overtake and pull on and off motorway slip roads for you. Then, in 2020, Nissan will sell its mainstream cars with fully-autonomous technology. We’re talking about a Qashqai that can drive you through the chaos of city traffic, hands free.

“The idea is that if you enjoy your commute you can drive yourself, if not the car can do it for you,” Richard Candler, Nissan’s GM for advanced product strategy explained. “The plan is to launch ten Nissan/Renault autonomous cars by 2020 – it will be a bit like our safety shield package now, which is fitted to around 50 per cent of our cars.”

Candler claims that EVs are best suited to the autonomous software – as demonstrated by the IDS concept - because the gearbox is electronically controlled, but it will work just as well on a petrol or diesel car. He also predicts that in 10 years time, taking into account cost, range and charging infrastructure, Nissan’s electric vehicles will serve the needs of 95 per cent of its customers, and still be offered at a reasonable price.

Where it gets really exciting is what could be possible with the next-generation GT-R. “The GT-R represents us as a brand and comes under our intelligent mobility banner, I would love to see an autonomous GT-R at the Nurburgring,” he suggested. “You could drive a lap manually, then hand over control to the car and experience what a seven minute lap feels like. Now that would be a challenge for us.”

Beyond autonomous, Nissan has been working with architect firm Foster and Partners to map out what the fuel station of the future could look like. Its conclusion? That the car itself is the fuel station… Plug it in at home and any excess charge in the battery could be used to run your house (a Leaf battery could keep an average home going for two days) and is only charged back up when electricity is cheap and in low demand. Thus levelling out the normal peaks and troughs in the national grid.

Other ideas include electric cars that share public wireless charging points by shuffling themselves around autonomously, removing the need for an excessive points. It’s crystal ball gazing stuff, but if it makes journeys easier and keeps running costs lower, we’re all for it. Just get the next GT-R right first.

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