Nissan has outlined its strategy for autonomous driving, aiming to have a car capable of autonomously handling highway and city traffic on the road by 2020.
Nissan’s vision of “Zero Fatality,” which aspires to eliminate virtually all fatalities stemming from traffic crashes, relies heavily on “vehicle intelligence” that will be introduced in various stages. The first, Piloted Drive 1.0, will be available in Japan by the end of 2016. It will allow autonomous driving in heavy highway traffic conditions, where the technology basically just has to maintain lanes and accelerate and brake as needed.
The company hopes to implement autonomous multi-lane highway driving, where the technology would perform lane changes as needed to drive around slower traffic or to merge onto or off the highway, by 2018. And by 2020, new technology would be develop to successfully navigate city/urban roads, including performing directional changes at intersections. It’s all covered by the Nissan Intelligent Diving umbrella.
“Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver’s ability to see, think and react. It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 percent of all car accidents,” said Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn in outlining the program at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. “Nissan’s forthcoming technologies will revolutionize the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility. As a result, time spent behind the wheel is safer, cleaner, more efficient and more fun.”
The vehicle designated for testing of the rapidly advancing technology is a Leaf electric car, adapted with new features such as millimeter wave radar, laser scanners, on-board cameras, high-speed computer chips, and a specialized Human Machine Interface (HMI). Combined, the technology will allow the car to operate fully autonomously, with the exception of navigating from point A to point B. It is ready to hit the road in Japan, with plans to test in other countries in the near future.
Of particular interest is the prototype high-spec laser scanner (which allows the car to operate in tight spaces through the use of precise three-dimensional measurements between it and its surroundings) and the on-board eight-camera system (which provides a 360-degree evaluation of the car in its immediate environment). The two systems provide the car with the ability to smoothly navigate in complex driving situations, as if it were being piloted by an informed, highly-skilled driver.
The HMI consists of several components. The Piloted Drive Commander (on the centre console) conducts functions such as shifting between piloted and manual modes, and making automatic lane changes. The main dash display would present a virtual bird’s eye-view of the car and its surroundings (as Nissan already does during parking manoeuvres) during autonomous operation. The instrument cluster would adapt between manual mode (where it displays the usual meters and vehicle systems information) and piloted drive (when it would display a virtual 360-degree view during highway driving or front-view during urban driving). And the head-up display would present the driver with a virtual driving path as the car negotiates autonomous manoeuvres such as lane changes.
The final step would be to integrate all the new technologies into a production vehicle that would likely be based on the Nissan IDS concept unveiled at the Tokyo show. The concept bears the new face of Nissan and is similar in bodystyle to the current Leaf, leading us to belief it’s not too far a reach from the Leaf test car already fitted with prototypes of the new technology.
“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,” said Senior Vice President of Nissan, Takao Asami. “Nissan aspires for a safe and trouble-free motoring future, and we plan on leading the industry in the implementation of piloted drive.”