Nissan Made An Intern Sit In 64 Of America's Worst Traffic Jams

Technology / 9 Comments

His time on the road helped Nissan improve its driver-assist tech.

It's easy for us to get behind the wheel of a new vehicle and either marvel at or castigate a new piece of technology without thinking about the engineers and designers who spent many hours creating and testing it. Some new vehicle tests aren't even safe enough for humans. But one human at Nissan had the tough job of sitting in gridlocked US traffic for hours to help the company improve its ProPilot Assist hands-on driver-assist system as part of his engineering internship.

This technology was first seen in the 2018 Nissan Rogue and it's one of the things we love most about the latest Rogue. Tyler Szymkowski was tasked with the job of getting himself stuck in the worst traffic he could find, something that all of us try to avoid.

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While working as an intern, Szymkowski sat in no less than 64 standstill traffic jams in various cities around the country including Baltimore, Detroit, Washington, and Los Angeles. The ProPilot system operates in stop-and-go traffic by bringing the vehicle to a halt and then setting off again once traffic starts moving.

However, ProPilot initially only paused for three seconds before deactivating, requiring the driver to tap the accelerator to move again if stopping for longer than three seconds. Many customers indicated that three seconds wasn't long enough. Thanks to Szymkowski's research, numerous improvements were made to the system such as a new hold time of 30 seconds to better account for actual traffic scenarios.

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"I got a very realistic taste of what customers experience in major cities," said the former intern who is now working as a human factors and ergonomics engineer at one of the company's technical centers. "It was really cool that Nissan was letting an intern have an impact on a new emerging technology."

On new Nissans like the Rogue and Pathfinder, ProPilot can sync with the navigation system for an even more intuitive experience. By doing so, the car's speed can be reduced if, for example, approaching a tight curve. We applaud Nissan's research but are happy not to have had to sit through hours of heavy traffic ourselves.

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