Car taking the wheel

Cruise control on long road trips is a blessing. Having the car also take the wheel for you is otherworldly.

Exiting and entering big cities in Japan means you are going to hit traffic. 5km,10km, and 15km traffic jams are not uncommon. Not a good place for cruise control, I thought.

Renting a Nissan Serena recently, I saw the “Pilot” option and gave it a whirl. I was expecting it to maintain the speed I set, even to use radar to sense how far away I am from the car in front of me. I wasn’t expecting it to also take the wheel and keep the car within the lane we were driving on. Wow.

It’s no Tesla and gives you a nice big flashing red warning if you take your hands off the wheel for more than a few seconds. However, it really blows my mind that I can take my hands off the wheel at all to open a pack of crackers or take the lid of my drink and not have to worry about crashing the car.

The biggest surprise came when we hit those inevitable traffic jams. With the speed set at 90km/h, the radar sensed the cars ahead slowing down and our car did the same, while keeping a safe distance from the car in front of us. Every cruise control system I had experienced before required you to be above a certain speed to use, but the Pilot system kept working even as we dropped to 20km/h, 10km/h and 5km/h. Even with the nearly stop-and-go jam we hit, the car kept pace and within our lane.

Traffic jams like that lull me to sleep or make my legs ache. Having this feature made it a thousand times easier to get through the traffic jams.

I’m looking forward to seeing this technology become more universal so that no matter which rental car I drive, things will be just a little easier.