Nissan Safety Shield Upgrade Makes Leaf EV Self-Driving

Nissan has demonstrated a new version of its Safety Shield technology, adding 360-degree sensors to a custom Leaf EV that, with onboard AI, tease the company's ongoing work on autonomous, self-driving cars. Safety Shield, the first version of which will debut on production Nissans later this year, monitors activity around the car; in its new prototypes, shown off for the first time at Nissan 360, the Leaf adds to those senses with full camera coverage from every angle to track potential risks, pedestrians, other vehicles, and road signs.

Nissan's system – in some ways similar to the Nokia HERE 3D mapping car – uses a combination of cameras and laser scanners to do that. Together with a re-educated processing system, it means the Leaf can now perform basic autonomous driving tasks that, until today, might have been the preserve of cars like Google's self-driving models.

For instance, the car can automatically recognize when a lane on the highway is closed, steering out of the path of an obstacle. In city driving, the Leaf can now track activity at an intersection, and autonomously navigate through amid other traffic.

Finally, there's the ability to overtake at speed, tracking gaps in traffic and merging accordingly, even if there are parked vehicles at the junction itself.

Unfortunately, there's no telling exactly when this super-intelligent version of Safety Shield will come to market. Although autonomous driving systems are growing in number on the research side, at least, actual production cars with the ability to pilot themselves are in scarce supply, not least because of the legal implications.

Dynamic cruise-control and automatic lane-tracking is about as complex as it comes, though the new Mercedes S-Class set to go on sale later this year does have an updated version of the company's Distronic Plus that can apparently navigate through highway lanes, track the movement of other vehicles and respond accordingly, and even boost what braking power is applied when hazards like pedestrians are around.

Nissan announced back in February that the Note would be the first car to ship with v.1 of its Safety Shield technology. There's more on Nissan in our Cars Hub.