Fresh from the road-safety division of the “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” department, a self-driving example of how our cars are certainly smarter than ever. Infiniti‘s Q50 has, like many luxury sedans of the moment, a host of driver assistance aids that can collectivity keep the car in lane, maintain pace with surrounding traffic, and generally mimic some of what Google and others are working on for autonomous vehicles. That encouraged one tester to switch on the tech and then jump out of the driver’s seat.
Thankfully, the result wasn’t a crash, and in fact the Q50’s systems handle the whole thing neatly. The lane-guidance keeps it following the curves of the highway, while the mild traffic is dealt with smoothly thanks to the smart cruise control system.
Infiniti calls it Lane Departure Prevention and Active Lane Control, and it uses a camera to track the road markings and make sure the Q50 is still inside them. It’s designed to offer assistance, but is clearly good enough that you can – in relatively predictable situations like on the highway – allow the car to effectively steer itself.
Of course, neither Infiniti nor SlashGear would recommend actually doing that, and especially not climbing out of the driver’s seat and leaving the car to its own devices. Even far more intelligent autonomous car prototypes have required at least one person behind the wheel, to take over just in case the systems start to struggle.
Nissan began its real-world testing of its self-driving Leaf prototype late last year, though we got the chance to ride along with the smart EV before that. What’s interesting with Nissan’s approach has been how focused it has been on trying to use more affordable components, like the existing cameras the production car relies on for lane detection and other features.
Still, Nissan has tempered its self-driving ambitions for 2020 a little, and has pulled back some from promising full autonomous capabilities for all situations.
In the meantime, even if the technology is up to speed, the legal environment is yet to catch up, and deciding who is responsible when a self-driving car inevitably crashes is still an unsolved puzzle. Insurance companies are yet to weigh in, and until those factors are decided it seems unlikely we’ll be retiring to the rear seat while the car handles rush hour any time soon.