Nissan begins testing its first autonomous prototype based on Leaf in Japan

Article by Christian Andrei, on November 2, 2015

Testing on the first of Nissan’s prototype vehicles that were built with autonomous driving technology has just begun in Japan. Nissan wanted to know how well it works on both the highway and in the trickier inner city roads.

A sustainable mobile society – this is Nissan’s vision for the future. The automaker defines this as being able to achieve two of its targets -- "Zero Emission" and "Zero Fatality."

What the company means with Zero Emission is that there should be no CO2 gases emitted from its vehicles while Zero Fatality aims to make fatalities due to road accidents a thing of the past.

To make Zero Fatality a possibility, Nissan’s answer is a type of vehicle Intelligence that’s very advanced and consists of different innovations presented in phases.

By the end of the year 2016, Stage One – to be known as Piloted Drive 1.0 -- will be offered in Japan. This is activated during heavy traffic in the highway. And in 2018, Nissan aims to have piloted drive that can maneuver between multiple lanes on the highways.

A major jump will be seen by 2020 as vehicles will be able to autonomously manage city roads, even past intersections. Ultimately, this vehicle is intended for the public to use. This is why testing of this prototype will be done in real traffic situations in highway and urban roads.

The results will help improve Nissan Intelligent Driving. Founded on the principles of the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle, this prototype has sophisticated features, which include a millimeter wave radar, cameras, laser scanners, a specialized HMI (Human Machine Interface), and high-speed computer chips.

These are all useful for the vehicle to be able to autonomously function on roads. What it doesn’t do yet is to travel to certain locations as they’re logged into the navigation system. Very soon, the tests will be conducted overseas too. In particular, two breakthrough technologies were developed by Nissan to make piloted driving a possibility in city roads.

One is the small high-spec laser scanner, which figures out how far the vehicle is from its surroundings. It uses highly accurate 3D measurement that allows the vehicle to drive through narrow spaces.

The laser scanner is still a prototype though. The second technology that’s necessary for autonomous driving is an 8-way camera system that has a 360-degree view. This makes the routing decisions at intersections and when traversing sharp curves.

With these innovations, the occupants of the prototype vehicle get a sense of being driven by a competent driver as the car is smoothly driven through twisted traffic.

Takao Asami, Nissan’s senior vice president, said that the brand has established “clear goals” as it readies for the eventual use of piloted drive. He also talked about how close the company is in achieving its goal of safe and easy motoring as well as of being the leader in this technology.

Press Release

Nissan conducts first on-road test of prototype vehicle featuring piloted drive on highway and city/urban roads

Nissan has begun testing its first prototype vehicle that demonstrates piloted drive on both highway and city/urban roads.

Nissan maintains two corporate visions of a sustainable mobile society: "Zero Emission" and "Zero Fatality." For Zero Emission, the company's goal is to eliminate the emission of CO2 gasses from Nissan vehicles, while Zero Fatality is an aspirational goal that aims to eliminate virtually all fatalities stemming from traffic accidents.

"Vehicle Intelligence" will play a key role in realizing the concept of Zero Fatality. Therefore, the company is developing an advanced form of vehicle intelligence called "Nissan Intelligent Driving," which is comprised of various innovative features that will be introduced in stages.

For Stage One, Nissan will offer "Piloted Drive 1.0" by the end of 2016 in Japan. Piloted Drive 1.0 allows for autonomous driving under heavy highway traffic conditions. By 2018, the company hopes to implement a multiple lane piloted drive that can conduct lane changes on highways. And by 2020, a new technology will be introduced that allows vehicles to successfully manage city/urban roads- including intersections – autonomously.

The prototype vehicle making its public debut today will be tested in actual traffic conditions on both the highway and city/urban roads to develop and further enhance Nissan Intelligent Driving for public use. The vehicle is based on the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle and it is equipped with features such as a millimeter wave radar, laser scanners, cameras, high-speed computer chips, and a specialized HMI (Human Machine Interface), just to name a few.

All of this helps allow the vehicle to operate in an autonomous manner on both highway and city/urban roads except for setting destination points into the navigation system. These tests are planned for Japan as well as overseas in the near future.

Nissan has developed two innovative technologies that can make piloted drive possible on city/urban roads. The first is the miniature, high-spec laser scanner. Currently in its prototype stages, the laser scanner determines the distance between the vehicle and its surroundings through the use of precise three-dimensional measurement that enables the vehicle to navigate routes in tight spaces.

The other new technology is an 8-way, 360-degree view camera system that allows for accurate routing decisions when driving through intersections and sharp curving roads.

The new prototype vehicle possesses both of these innovative features, facilitating smooth transportation through complex traffic environments, helping the occupants feel as though they are in the hands of a skilled driver.

"We at Nissan are setting clear goals and preparing for the implementation of piloted drive," said senior vice president of Nissan, Takao Asami. "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."

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