YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan is giving the sporty Skyline sedan a high-tech, midcycle update with a new semi-autonomous system that allows for truly hands-free, auto-navigating highway driving.
The refreshed sedan goes on sale this fall in Japan and signals what might be in store for the upcoming Infiniti Q50, the name the vehicle is sold under in the U.S. market.
The minor model change, unveiled Tuesday at Nissan Motor Corp.’s headquarters here south of Tokyo, includes a new top-tier 400R grade in Japan that is the most powerful factory-built Skyline ever. Its 3.0-liter V-6 twin-turbo engine generates 400 hp, over the base model’s 300 hp.
A new Intelligent Dynamic Suspension feature also offers more precise control of suspension damping that corresponds to the driving situation to reduce vibration and improve comfort.
Styling tweaks, for the Japan version at least, include the return of the Skyline’s traditional four-circle rear combination lamps with full LED illumination. In Japan, where the carmaker doesn’t market the Infiniti premium brand, the Skyline gets Nissan’s V-Motion grille.
Hybrid versions of the Skyline, both two-wheel and four-wheel drive, come with the Japanese company’s next-generation semi-autonomous driving technology as standard equipment.
That new ProPilot 2.0 system makes several advances over the current generation ProPilot technology, which has been sold in 350,000 vehicles worldwide since hitting the market in 2016.
Chief among the improvements will be delivering pure hands-off highway driving from on-ramp to off-ramp.
The system will switch lanes, pass other vehicles and help with lane exiting.
The current system doesn’t allow lane changing or take orders from the navigation system to drive itself to a chosen destination. Indeed, in the U.S., a circumspect Nissan tacks on the word “Assist” to ProPilot so as not to engender a false sense of security in its limited abilities.
Nissan said in a statement that ProPilot 2.0 delivers “the world’s first driver assistance system to combine navigated highway driving with hands-off single-lane driving capabilities.”
The new system fulfills Nissan’s promise to launch an auto-navigating, self-driving system for highways by the end of the decade. ProPilot 2.0 cobbles together seven cameras, five radar sensors and 12 sonar sensors, combined with a 3D high-definition mapping navigation system.
The system allows hands-off driving only when the car is traveling in the same lane. When the car switches lanes, Japanese regulations require drivers to have their hands on the wheel. ProPilot 2.0 still changes the lanes by itself, but the law requires human hand-holding, just in case.
The system works only on highways that have been mapped in three-dimensional high-definition. It is this advanced digital mapping that allows the new ProPilot system to position the car on a road with an ultra-precise margin of error of only a matter of centimeters.
Nissan said in May the 2.0 system will be available only in Japan for the time being. Nissan plans to eventually introduce it worldwide, but the timing of the global rollout is still under discussion.
The system uses a monitoring system to make sure the driver is paying attention and ready to resume control in an emergency. If the driver becomes disengaged and doesn’t respond to alerts, the car turns on its hazard lights, slowly pulls over to a stop and calls for emergency help.
A key function of the upgrade is the ability to set a destination in the navigation system and have the car drive itself there, at least over certain highway routes where the technology works.
Nissan calls it a world’s first when combined with hands-free driving.
Like the Leaf electric car, Nissan’s autonomous driving push is a forward-looking legacy of Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman who was arrested Nov. 19 and now faces four indictments in Japan on allegations of financial misconduc at the company.
While Nissa CEO, Ghosn announced plans in 2013 to have multiple autonomous vehicles on the market by 2020. Nissan later fine-tuned the plan, saying a multi-lane highway system would debut around 2018 and that an urban system that handles intersections would arrive around 2020.
Autonomous driving is now a key pillar of Nissan’s so-called Intelligent Mobility product development strategy, which focuses on electrification, autonomy and connectivity.
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said in May he wants annual sales of vehicles equipped with ProPilot semi-autonomous driving systems to reach 1 million in the next four years.
Nissan plans to be selling that technology in 20 nameplates in 20 markets, he said