The new Leaf with Nissan's ProPilot driverless feature could launch as soon as this year, following a teaser image and video the Japanese carmaker released of its flagship EV yesterday.
A company source told Driverless that ProPilot could become available in the new Leaf before 2018, but added that shipments might not actually begin until 2018. The exact timing of the driverless feature's rollout has yet to be determined, the company source said.
Given the Leaf's status as a tech flagship for the company, it is likely that the model will offer ProPilot in the US and in Europe ahead of when the driverless option is available in the Qashqai and X-Trail flagship SUV. Those models are set to launch in Europe next year.
The teaser image shown above marks the first time Nissan has released a video of the new Leaf's interior. The video of the new Leaf running on ProPilot, also released yesterday, reveals few details about how much hands-off, and eventually, "mind-off' driving the model will offer. The video merely states the driver can "take back control of the vehicle" for when "an exciting drive stretches ahead."
Nissan has previously said ProPilot, when it becomes available in the Qashqai and X-Trail SUV in Europe next year, will control the steering, acceleration, and braking in single lanes on highways during heavy traffic congestion and at high-speed cruising, but was not more specific.
Nissan has disclosed it has tested the Leaf 's ProPilot features in London, Silicon Valley, and in Tokyo, but it has yet to be seen if the new Leaf will offer urban-driving autonomous features in the new Leaf or not.
Nissan is targeting early adopters by offering the feature as part of a tech-centric package. This includes all-electric driving and connectivity options in addition to self-driving features, thus hinting at the possibility that it will serve as Nissan's self-drive flagship when it becomes available, as early as this year. The new Leaf is also expected to offer a driving range of more than 200 miles on a charge.
Meanwhile, Nissan has previously disclosed ProPilot will offer self-driving for multi-lane highways (it is currently limited to single-lane highway driving conditions) in 2018 and will be available for use in certain cities in 2020.
Nissan's approach with the Leaf is not unlike that of BMW's strategy for its i3 all-electric sub-brand, which offers self-drive steering, accelerating, and braking along certain highway conditions, as well as self-parking features. Given the Leaf's high profile as a tech leader in Nissan's fleet, it is very likely it could also offer Nissan's most-advanced driverless features upon launch. Expect Nissan to reveal more details about the Leaf during the upcoming Frankfurt International Motor Show in September.