Weekly Brief: Nissan Leaf begins to bring driverless to the masses

Nissan’s trail-blazer now focused on offering affordable autonomous driving. Andrew Tolve reports.

The car that kick started the electric vehicle revolution, the Nissan Leaf, is back with a semi-driverless second generation model. Nissan unveiled the EV in Tokyo and Las Vegas last week with some fancy semi-autonomous systems, including ProPilot Assist and ProPilot Park.

A bigger battery will help it compete with some of the EVs that have come along in its wake; at 150 miles on a single charge, it has twice the range as the original Leaf. Most importantly, it comes in at a price point of $29,990 (£22,732) before a $7,500 federal tax credit in the US, which should give it a mass market edge over rivals like the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. The car will be sold in the US, Japan and Europe.

The US House of Representatives passed its self-driving car bill, dubbed the Self Drive Act, which would replace the patchwork of state laws that currently regulate the deployment of robot cars in the US with a single federal law. To encourage development, it would increase the total number of self-driving cars allowed on US roads to 25,000 within one year and 100,000 within three. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it’s expected to pass with bipartisan support.

Lyft is launching a self-driving car pilot in San Francisco. The company is mum on when exactly the pilot will start and how many vehicles it will include but we do know that real paying customers (rather than company employees) will be using the vehicles and that Lyft is planning to partner with self-driving tech company Drive.ai to make it happen. A Drive.ai engineer will be behind the wheel at all times for safety. Lyft already has self-driving car pilots underway with Waymo and NuTonomy.

Mercedes-Benz launched a free smartphone app that lets drivers know if they’re ready for an electric or hybrid vehicle. The app runs in the background while drivers move through their daily routines with their existing cars and compares the data it collects with the parameters of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Finally, Volkswagen and IBM plan to develop digital mobility services together. The aim is to make digital services smarter thanks to IBM’s AI-based Watson technologies. A solution called “We Commerce” will be the first joint development that appears in Volkswagen’s existing WE digital ecosystem. This will be an integrated service that provides drivers with personalised recommendations for action at the right place and time, from restaurants that serve the type of food they look to retailers that sell the types of goods they like to buy.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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