Automotive Blog

Nissan demonstrates US-tuned ProPILOT Assist programme, Infiniti launches updated Q50 sedan




Nissan has given a demonstration of the US-market version of its upcoming ProPILOT Assist programme, a Level 2 driving assist system designed for stop-and-go commutes and long highway drives. Infiniti's Q50 sedan takes a minor update for the 2018 model year, readjusting packages and pricing.

IHS Markit perspective

  • Significance: Nissan has demonstrated its Nissan ProPILOT Assist driving assist technology to media and industry analysts, while Nissan luxury brand Infiniti has introduced the 2018 model-year Q50 sedan using a test drive.
  • Implications: Driver assist and autonomous driving systems are hot topics. Nissan's introduction of ProPILOT Assist brings the brand into the conversation. The Infiniti Q50 has a routine mid-cycle update for the 2018 model year, with revamped trim levels to better match with consumer preferences.
  • Outlook: Nissan's introduction of ProPILOT Assist is its first step in shifting from driver assist to technology that can perform self-driving functions. ProPILOT Assist builds on systems Nissan has been refining since it first introduced lane-departure warning. The updated Q50 may assist in combating general market erosion of sedan sales, with pricing that adjusts the model more to current market conditions, and possibly reduces the need for incentives.

Nissan's US team has demonstrated the automaker's ProPILOT Assist driver assist technology, while Nissan luxury brand Infiniti has provided a deeper look at the updated 2018 model-year Q50 sedan, including a drive opportunity, at recent events for media and industry analysts. IHS Markit attended both events. The Q50 goes on sale this month and has received a routine mid-cycle update and revamped trim levels to better match with consumer preferences.

Nissan ProPILOT Assist

Nissan's ProPILOT Assist programme improves on and integrates the company's driver-assist technologies. Nissan has previously confirmed that the next-generation LEAF electric car will be the first vehicle in the United States to offer the system, and it will be followed by the Rogue. Rollout of the system to other products is still being determined; one element that is required is for the model to have electric power steering, to deploy steer-by-wire. A version is offered on Nissan's Serena multipurpose vehicle (MPV) in Japan.

ProPILOT Assist integrates steering assist and an enhanced version of Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) to assist with the driving tasks in single-lane driving situations, and is particularly designed for stop-and-go urban traffic or long highway drives. ICC and steering assist are available on Infiniti products, including the 2018 Q50, but ProPILOT Assist integrates their functions to increase the level of driver assist available. The steering assist helps the driver stay in the centre of a lane ‒ when the system detects clear lane markings on both sides and ICC is engaged. ICC has been given enhanced capability to slow the vehicle to a stop and hold it during traffic jam conditions. If the vehicle is stopped for less than three seconds, the driver need do nothing and the vehicle will move when the one in front does. If the vehicle stops for more than three seconds, it can be re-engaged by touching the accelerator pedal or pushing the 'resume' button on the steering wheel. ProPILOT Assist, which Nissan characterises as a Level 2 system within the SAE Level 0‒5 rating system, uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors, and electronic control module.

Nissan's ProPILOT Assist programme improves on and integrates the company's driver-assist technologies. Nissan has previously confirmed that the next-generation LEAF electric car will be the first vehicle in the United States to offer the system, and it will be followed by the Rogue. Rollout of the system to other products is still being determined; one element that is required is for the model to have electric power steering, to deploy steer-by-wire. A version is offered on Nissan's Serena multipurpose vehicle.

ProPILOT Assist integrates steering assist and an enhanced version of Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) to assist with the driving tasks in single-lane driving situations, and is particularly designed for stop-and-go urban traffic or long highway drives. ICC and steering assist are available on Infiniti products, including the 2018 Q50, but ProPILOT Assist integrates their functions to increase the level of driver assist available. The steering assist helps the driver stay in the centre of a lane ‒ when the system detects clear lane markings on both sides and ICC is engaged. ICC has been given enhanced capability to slow the vehicle to a stop and hold it during traffic jam conditions. If the vehicle is stopped for less than three seconds, the driver need do nothing and the vehicle will move when the one in front does. If the vehicle stops for more than three seconds, it can be re-engaged by touching the accelerator pedal or pushing the 'resume' button on the steering wheel. ProPILOT Assist, which Nissan characterises as a Level 2 system within the SAE Level 0‒5 rating system, uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors, and electronic control module.

2018 Q50: Fresh look and model line-up

The Infiniti Q50 sedan was introduced for the 2014 model year, then took an engine range refresh for the 2016 model year, and now has received a minor update for the 2018 model year. This was the first model for which Infiniti used the Q/QX naming convention, and was the model with which the brand introduced its Direct Adaptive Steering system. That steer-by-wire system is an element used in ProPILOT Assist by Nissan and is featured in Infiniti's ProACTIVE package. The ProACTIVE package bundles direct active steering, intelligent cruise control, blind-spot intervention, lane-departure warning with active lane control, adaptive front-light and high-beam assist. Unlike ProPILOT Assist, these systems work independently of each other.

The Q50 powertrains are carried over in the 2018 model year, including a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, two versions of a 3.0-litre 4-cylinder (300-hp and 400-hp), and a 3.5-litre V6-based hybrid providing 360 hp. The exterior updates include new front and rear fascias, with the new Pure and Luxe trim grades differentiated from more aggressive-looking updates for the Sport and Red Sport models.

More significant against the backdrop of difficult sedan sales is a change to the model's grade strategy. The standard car is now named Pure, available with the 2.0t in rear-drive or all-wheel drive. The next grade up is the luxury-minded Luxe, which was formerly called Premium. Infiniti expects the Luxe version to account for about 40% of the model's US sales volume. The Luxe grade takes more chrome finishes outside, wood trim inside, and three of the model's four possible powertrains are offered ‒ the 400-hp version of the 3.0t is reserved for the Red Sport 400 trim. Infiniti has also expanded the Sport trim level. Primarily an appearance package, it had been available only with the 2.0t. It is now available with the 300-hp 3.0t engine. A new performance package is applicable to the Sport model, however, which gives it stronger brakes, a dynamic digital suspension, faster steering ratio, and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. In making this change, Infiniti has dropped the price of the Sport model by USD4,000.

The price of the 2018 Q50 starts USD2,000 lower than previously, at USD34,200. The prices of versions which Infiniti expects to account for 70% of the model's sales (Luxe, Hybrid Luxe, and 3.0t Sport) start at between USD36,550 and USD50,600. The most expensive is the hybrid, sales of which Infiniti expects to be relatively low. The Red Sport 400's price starts at USD51,000.

Outlook and implications

Nissan's introduction of ProPILOT Assist is its first step in shifting from driver assist to technology that can perform self-driving functions. Following the launch of ProPILOT Assist outside of Japan in late 2017, a system capable of multi-lane operation is due. The ProPILOT Assist technology builds on systems Nissan has been refining since it first introduced lane-departure warning. The updated Q50 comes with pricing adjustments that may be more acceptable in current market conditions, and possibly will reduce the need for incentives.

As ProPILOT Assist is intended for only single-lane operation, it does not assist with detecting blind spots, pedestrian braking, or forward collision alert. Nissan and Infiniti offer those functions, but they are not yet integrated into ProPILOT. IHS Markit drove the 2018 Q50 sedan and the ProPILOT Assist system on a Nissan Rogue in the space of days, and the similarities of the two systems were far more apparent than the differences. The differences between the Q50's ProACTIVE package and Nissan's ProPILOT Assist will be difficult for a consumer to detect. The ProPILOT Assist system was more effective at keeping the demonstration Rogue in its lane than many lane-keep or lane assist systems we have driven previously.

Although brands such as EV maker Tesla and traditional luxury automakers rightfully have taken a fair amount of credit for coming rapidly to the market with advanced systems, Nissan's development of such systems has been forward thinking for nearly 20 years. In the US, many of the systems were deployed on Infiniti projects ahead of the rollout to Nissan products. In Japan, many of the systems were rolled out on premium Nissan products first. The Nissan ProPILOT Assist system we drove is available in the Japan-market Serena, though the version we drove has been adjusted for US drive cycles and preferences. It is also built from the systems Infiniti products have been rolling out and improving on since 2001. While ProPILOT Assist is a more thorough integration of the systems compared with Infiniti's ProACTIVE package, the differences are subtle enough for consumers to perhaps not readily appreciate. The situation exemplifies how difficult the road to autonomy may be for current car buyers.

While Infiniti's US-market development and deployment of many driver assist systems has occurred at the leading edge, the luxury brand has not been proactive about communicating its capability in this area. As a result of the automaker's long-standing and thorough development in this space, which in the US played out first through Infiniti nameplates, when Nissan launches ProPILOT Assist in the US market on the LEAF in 2018, it will be a robust, comprehensive Level 2 driver assist system. It will also be more comprehensive than the ProACTIVE system of its premium brand, at least initially. This is a function of how consumers expect driver assist systems, perceived as safety-related, to be made available in more segments and more quickly, and automakers are responding to this.

The ProPILOT Assist system performed as advertised during our test drive. However, with many brands already boasting less-sophisticated versions of lane-keep assist and offering intelligent cruise control that can come to a stop, Nissan may have a challenge in explaining what is better about the ProPILOT Assist integrated system compared with, for example, Honda's or Toyota's safety suites, which include the discrete systems that ProPILOT integrates.

About this article

The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends.​ Get a free trial.

About The Author

Ms. Stephanie Brinley is Senior Analyst-Americas, IHS Automotive, covering North and South America for the IHS World Markets Automotive service.

She is responsible for a daily update of news, events, interviews and product introduction summaries as well as special research reports and company profiles, providing context for and analysis of industry developments to worldwide subscribers. She joined IHS Automotive in summer 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in the automotive sector, including a decade in automotive analysis, four years' experience in supplier-based strategic communications and as a supplier-OEM marketing liaison, and several years on the editing side of a top automotive enthusiast publication in the United States. Ms. Brinley holds an a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Marketing from Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich., and an MBA in Integrative Management from Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business, Lansing, Mich., US.