Nissan has confirmed reports that the Nissan Leaf's Propilot option will go on sale in the US in September, but when it does, don't expect it to compete against the Tesla Model 3's driverless features.
Ahead of the Propilot's launch in the US, details revealed about Nissan's Propilot features indicate that the all-electric Tesla Model 3, which is also geared for the mainstream sector, has driverless capabilities that are unequivocally more advanced than what Nissan's all-electric model offers.
In other words, the Leaf's Propilot arguably does not really compete again Tesla's Autopilot, even as a poor man's alternative.
In addition to Tesla models, the Propilot capabilities are also more limited than what Audi, Acura, and Mercedes have offered for a number of years in the traditional combustion-engine car sector.
The key limiting factor of the Nissan Leaf's Propilot is that the driver's hands must remain on the steering wheel at all times when the Leaf's Propilot is activated. The Leaf's Propilot controls the steering, acceleration, and braking, and is limited to certain single-lane highway conditions.
However, Nissan has also previously disclosed Propilot will offer self-driving for multi-lane highways in 2018 and will be available for use in certain cities in 2020.
Despite Propilot's limitations, Ponz Pandikuthira, vice president of product planning for Nissan Europe, said during a recent TEDxAthens that the Leaf and Qashqai SUV will offer "fully autonomous" driving on "public European roads" this year.
Comparatively, the Tesla Model 3, as well as the Model S and X, offer Level 2 capabilities, meaning the driver is able to take their hands off the steering wheel during certain driving conditions on public roads and even streets at speeds of up to 90 mph (Nissan has not yet disclosed Propilot's maximum speed), but must be prepared to take back control at all times.
Autopilot updates have also recently improved Autosteer functionality and enabled driverless perpendicular parking in newer Tesla models.
Price-wise, the Tesla 3 MSRP is $35,000, plus $5,000 for Enhanced Autopilot features and $3,000 for "full self-driving capability," pending software updates, for a total price of $43,000.
Nissan has not yet announced pricing for the Propilot option, while the starting price of its Leaf is $30,680, less than $5,000 cheaper than the Model 3.
The main caveat in favor of the Leaf is that it has emerged as the best-selling electric vehicle (EV) worldwide, while the Model 3 will likely not be available for deliveries until the end of next year. By then, however, Tesla founder and CEO may hold true to his claims by offering Level 3 and even more advanced self-driving features in all of its models. In fact, he recently said during a TED talk that Tesla will offer Level 5 driving, meaning the car takes total control of driving from point A to point B with no intervention from the driver, in less than two years.
It's going to be an interesting ride.
Based on accident reports from the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles records, self-driven cars are already proving to be safer than human-driven cars are, even as driverless cars remain in the testing phase, according to a report in Axios. Among other things, the data reflects how self-drive cars do not do things that human often do that are the cause of thousands of deaths and injuries every year, including texting while driving, not yielding to stop signs and red lights, and other common human foibles.