Nissan has been teasing its next-generation Leaf EV for long, but the company finally revealed the car’s release date on Twitter Friday.
The company also appealed to lawmakers to support self-driving technology in a press release published Thursday.
“While we aren't there yet, the accelerated pace at which automakers and tech companies are introducing vehicle prototypes and automated drive features has left some stakeholders behind. On one hand there's excitement. On the other hand there's concern,” the company said.
The tweet includes a picture of the Nissan logo, with what looks like the car’s grille. The company has been teasing the car recently, first in an image showing the headlights of the car in May and then in a video showcasing its ProPilot Assist self-driving system on June 21. The car has also been sighted in spy shots indicating that on-road testing for the car is in progress.
The Leaf EV is an important launch for Nissan, since it will be the first car with the Japanese carmaker’s ProPilot technology. While it is not advanced as Tesla’s Autopilot technology, it is what you might call semi-autonomous driving technology. It is operated using a “pilot button” on the steering.
It will turn on the self-driving system. The system has been designed to go from point A to point B rather than complex situations such as traffic jams and lane changing to reduce the hassle of stop-and-go driving. The company says that it would not be investing in fully autonomous self-driving technology, at least for the time being.
"Someday, when drivers want, the technology will be available to do the driving task for them. But at Nissan, we see the driver remaining engaged and integral well into the future," the company’s senior manager Andy Christenson said.
The company says though that it is developing sensors and systems that can understand and adapt as well as human drivers.
Nissan seems to have taken the long haul approach to self-driving. It is actually working with lawmakers to address self-driving issues first. The company held an event recently in which it showcased its technology. "Bringing our experts to Washington shows our willingness to engage on these topics with the groups and decision-makers who attended," said Tracy Woodard, director, government affairs, Nissan North America.
While self-driving is being tested in many U.S. cities currently, the legal regulations are yet to catch up. Only California has proposed clear self-driving rules, but companies investing in technology, which include the tech giant Apple and carmaker Tesla, are opposing these rules on the grounds that they impose standards that are too strict for proper testing. The actualization of self-driving will need more than just the technology — it would need laws and even human drivers to match up and adapt to it.