Seeing automotive news nowadays allows us to draw future of cars in our minds. It looks like future belongs to electric autonomous cars. We see virtually all major automotive manufacturers putting efforts into these two highly potential fields. And now Nissan, manufacturer of the world‘s most popular electric car, is conducting first on-road test of prototype vehicle featuring piloted drive on highways and city streets. It is part of company‘s vision of future mobility – “Zero Emission” and “Zero Fatality” are two main goals Nissan has set for future cars.
Goal of zero emissions is rather obvious and not out of reach for Nissan. Company’s Leaf is the most popular electric car in the world, which for a long time did not even have real competition. It basically started entire electric car trend in the industry and now all major automotive manufacturers are producing some partly or fully electric car models. However, in this vision “Zero Fatality” may seem a little too optimistic if not impossible. But company has steps towards this goal already planned and they are focused around an advanced form of vehicle intelligence called “Nissan Intelligent Driving”. This system is formed from various different systems that will be developed and applied in different stages.
In the first one, Nissan will start offering a system called “Piloted Drive 1.0”. It will be offered in Japan by the end of 2016. This is what company is currently testing on the highways and streets. Piloted Drive 1.0 is a system, which allows for autonomous driving when traffic in the highway gets heavy. In later developments of this system company hopes to achieve a multiple lane piloted drive, which will be able to conduct lane changes in highways by itself.
This goal, hopefully, will be achieved by 2018. By 2020 Nissan hopes to reach even greater degree of autonomous driving. This development of the piloted driving system should be able to manage streets and even intersections autonomously. This is what Nissan is starting to test now. Because company is focusing on the first stage, introducing the prototype vehicle for testing, later stages are not yet mentioned.
The prototype is going to be tested in real traffic conditions, which means it is already pretty advanced. In order to enhance Nissan Intelligent Driving even further, it will be tested in urban environment and highways. Because of another Nissan goal of having vehicles with zero carbon emissions, company chose their Leaf as a base for this test vehicle.
Of course, in order to be able to drive itself, it is packed with technology, such as millimetre wave radar, laser scanners, cameras, high-speed computer chips, and a specialized HMI (Human Machine Interface) and much more. HMI consists of Piloted Drive Commander, which allows to change between autonomous and normal driving, meter cluster, heads-up display and centre cluster, where a virtual bird’s eye view is displayed allowing passengers to see the driving landscape during Piloted Drive. There are many more technologies that are possible to name here. In fact, Nissan has to develop two innovative technologies in order to get closer to their desired goals.
First thing that Nissan introduces as company’s own innovation is miniature, high-spec laser scanner. For now it is only a prototype, but it can determine the distance between the vehicle and its surroundings through the use of precise three-dimensional measurement that enables the vehicle to navigate through tighter gaps.
Another innovation is an 8-way, 360-degree view camera system. It is used to make accurate routing decisions in intersections or on winding roads. Prototype vehicle with all this technology should be able to smoothly drive through complex traffic environments, which is said to feel like sitting in a car with a skilled driver. However, all this impressive technology does not ensure everything yet. Currently it is not possible to set the destination points in the navigation system, but these tests are coming as well.
Takao Asami, senior vice president of Nissan, said: “We at Nissan are setting clear goals and preparing for the implementation of piloted drive. The prototype that we’re introducing here today is proof of how close we are towards the realization of this goal. Nissan aspires for a safe and trouble-free motoring future, and we plan on leading the industry in the implementation of piloted drive”.
These all seem to be very hopeful goals that are already coming to reality. Now it looks like we will have to wait and see if autonomous driving will help Nissan to avoid fatalities in its cars in the future.