Autonomous Technology Is Changing the Way Cars Look

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Photo: Nissan

By now it’s pretty clear that, despite what the Silicon Valley startups have told you, fully self-driving cars and taxi cabs are not just one or two years away. But that doesn’t mean the march of semi-autonomous technology on everyday cars will stop—far from it. As cars slowly build up automated driver assistance features, the design of those cars will change as well, like we see on the updated Nissan Skyline.

To recap, the car we Americans know as the Infiniti Q50 is back to being called the Nissan Skyline in Japan, but for the 2020 model year it gets the GT-R’s face and Nissan’s latest ProPilot 2.0 semi-autonomous system. (I’ve always been kind of meh on the Q50, but I somehow like it better when it’s called a Skyline.)


The car’s new look isn’t just for aesthetics—it’s also to fit new sensors for ProPilot 2.0, and to optimize how those sensors work by cutting down on hard, angular styling. Here’s Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa talking to Automotive News Europe:

“We had to change the outside because of the inside,” Albaisa said here at the launch of the face-lifted Skyline, the first nameplate incorporating ProPilot 2.0. “There’s a lot of technology in the front of this thing. Especially on the cheeks. A whole bunch of things had to happen.”


And he speaks briefly on the future of car design for semi-autonomous tech, which will mean cleaner lines and fewer angles:

“You’ll find that on a lot of the cars coming, probably on all brands, to be honest. It prefers clean surfaces so the sensors and the lidar and everything can send out very clean waves.”


It’s already pretty common to see new cars with the transparent radar plate up front, including on this new Skyline. While it’s rather unsightly, it’s a necessary addition for all the features many buyers want these days. But Albaisa thinks things will go even further—smoother, cleaner cars for better radar and lidar, and potentially larger, wider front ends to accommodate all this new tech.

Just another reminder that modern car design is less about an artist’s dream and more about compromise for technology, regulations, safety and everything else we need our vehicles to do today.