Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nissan’s First “Advanced Driver Assistance” LEAF Hits Roads of Japan[VIDEO]

Nissan’s goal of producing an autonomous car by 2020 took one step forward this week when a Nissan LEAF fitted with is prototype Advanced Driver Assistance System was granted a license plate to allow it to be driven on public roads, Nissan revealed today.

From a distance, the grey Nissan LEAF -- the first ever car fitted with autonomous driving equipment to be allowed on Japanese roads -- looks just like any other production Nissan LEAF. Look a little closer, and sensors underneath the charge port door, on each rear door, and on the corner of each bumper hint that this car is not a conventional electric car.
In a press release accompanying the news, Takao Asami, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Nissan was keen to highlight this particular milestone for autonomous vehicles.
“This is a very important step for Nissan to proceed to the age of Autonomous Driving,” he said. “This car features the so-called ‘Advanced Driver Assistance System’ with next-generation features, so it is very important for us to have this vehicle to try our technologies in the field.”
Much like Google’s self-driving car program however, the LEAF won’t be making trips on its own any time soon. Instead, Nissan engineers will be using the car to evaluate how is in-house autonomous driving software performs in the real-world, using its time on the public highway to refine the car’s software to better prepare it for a future of fully-automated driving.
With drive-by-wire electronics and sophisticated computer systems already on board, electric cars like the Nissan LEAF are particularly well-suited to becoming autonomous vehicle test-beds. In addition to Nissan’s own self-driving program, a team of engineers at the University of Oxford in England have been working on their own robotic car project, also based around a Nissan LEAF.

But don’t assume that you’ll be getting a self-driving car any time soon. While Nissan and other automakers -- including Tesla -- are confident of producing commercialized self-driving or semi-autonomous cars by 2020, many legislative hurdles remain on both a state and Federal level, which if unresolved, could push the cause of autonomous electric cars back for many years to come.