A few manufacturers have been working on autonomous vehicles, so-called “robot cars,” that can drive themselves and avoid accidents. Nissan recently showed the NSC-2015 prototype electric vehicle [EV] at Japan’s Cutting-Edge IT & Electronics Comprehensive Exhibition [CEATEC]. The new prototype can find its own parking spot and even come to you when you need it.
The NSC-2015 prototype is a highly modified version of the Nissan Leaf EV that includes sensors and cameras, as well as cloud computing services to help it navigate. Toyota has a parallel-parking program that takes advantage of cameras and the Electronic Power Steering system, but still requires driver input. It doesn’t even come close to Nissan’s autonomous system.
“The car can’t drive itself down the street,” admitted Tooru Futami, a Nissan Engineering Department expert. In order to park itself, the NSC-2015 needs to be in a parking lot dedicated to autonomous vehicles, at least for now. In order to form an accurate picture of its surroundings, it takes advantage of LTE cellular signals and sensors around the parking lot. This allows finer tuning than GPS, as well as allowing the vehicle to adapt to a changing environment.
“A Nissan representative clicked a few buttons on his smart phone and the car drove toward him. The idea is that you won’t have to find your car in a parking lot in the future. Instead, it will come to you,” said Michael Kanellos, a contributor at Forbes.
Kanellos then watched as the Nissan exhibitors staged a mock break-in. “The car sensed him and sent a message to the smart phone: “Your car detected someone by your car. Would you like to see a real-time movie?” A 360-degree live video of the car was then streamed to the cell phone from its exterior cameras. When we determined it wasn’t a family member or an animal but instead a junior product manager, another click of the smart phone set off the car alarm.”
By their very nature, autonomous vehicles can react quicker to changing situations. Auto manufacturers, on the cutting-edge of technology, have been examining things like, how fish school without hitting each other, and forming autonomous algorythms that can help drivers avoid, or at least lessen the severity of, an accident.
Nissan estimates that some of the technology they’re showing, today in the NSC-2015, could make it into production vehicles as soon as 2015.