A self-driving Nissan LEAF

Nissan to start testing driverless cars in London

Image credit: Reuters

Nissan will start trialling its driverless technology in London next month, showcasing the autonomous capabilities of its new Qashqai and LEAF vehicles on public roads in Europe for the first time.

The announcement was made during a visit of the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark to Nissan’s European Research and Development headquarters in Cranfield.

Government officials as well as technical and safety experts will participate in the trials, which will take place in real city traffic.

“In just a few weeks’ time, there will be Nissan LEAFs driving on the streets of London using our autonomous driving technology,” said Paul Willcox, Chairman of Nissan Europe.

Nissan recently announced that technology allowing autonomous driving on motorways without lane changing will be part of the package available on the new LEAF and Qashqai models.

The UK government has committed to the development of driverless car technology, which it expects will lead to the creation of a new global market worth some £900bn by 2025.

A start-up called Oxbotica, a spin-out from Oxford University, started testing its driverless cars in Milton Keynes last October. Other car-makers, including Ford and Jaguar Land Rover are developing their autonomous technology in the UK.

“Government and industry are working together to build on our world-class reputation for excellence as a leading location for automotive R&D and manufacturing,” Greg Clark said during the Nissan visit. “We want to see centres, like Nissan’s here in Cranfield, continue to develop, making us a world leader in the development and testing of auto technology so we can anchor the next generation of vehicle manufacturing and its supply chain here in the UK.”

Nissan’s re-commitment to the UK following the Brexit referendum result is seen as a huge vote of confidence for the out-of-EU Britain. The car maker was a vocal supporter of the Remain vote.

Concerns had been raised that the company, responsible for about a third of the UK’s total car output, might want to move its manufacturing facilities elsewhere or reduce investment in the UK. However, in October 2016, following talks with Prime Minister Theresa May, Nissan announced it would expand production in the UK and build its new Quashqai and X-Trail models in its Sunderland plant.

It was suggested Nissan must have been given assurances regarding the European Single Market access ahead of the decision.

Nissan first unveiled a suite of semi-autonomous features called the ProPilot in July 2016. Similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, the ProPilot enables autonomous single-lane driving on motorways and in congestion. The feature was launched on the Serena minivan in Japan.

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