Monday, October 14, 2013

Nissan steps closer to self-driving cars with road test model in Japan

The fully autonomous Nissan Leaf has won raves in Japan.
TOKYO -- Nissan is moving forward on its goal to commercialize self-driving cars by 2020, with an early prototype that has won accolades in Japan and another test variant that has been cleared for trials on public roads.
Both models are Leaf electric vehicles equipped with advanced spinoffs of Nissan's existing Safety Shield active safety system, which monitors a 360-degree view, scanning for risks and taking evasive measures when necessary.
A fully autonomous version of the Leaf won top honors in the Innovation Awards at the CEATEC exhibition this month in Japan, the country's largest consumer electronics show.
CEO Carlos Ghosn took that car -- or, rather, the car took him -- for a spin to help kick off the show. A video from the event shows a bemused Ghosn buckled in behind a self-activated steering wheel illuminated with a futuristic blue light running along the handle's rim.
"I didn't drive anything. I was just sitting in the car," Ghosn said. "This test proves to me that, first, we advanced a lot. Because I have tested the prototypes two years ago, which were way less advanced than this one. We're going to get there even sooner than we think."
In August, Nissan announced a target of being ready to deliver multiple commercially viable self-driving cars by 2020.
Ghosn said at the CEATEC event that the biggest hurdles will be regulatory, not technological. Indeed, regulations already restrict public testing of such systems.
Last month Nissan unveiled its first self-driving car for testing on public roads. It, too, was a Leaf, loaded with what Nissan calls its Advanced Driver Assist System.
But because Japanese road rules restrict autonomous driving, it does not have the full array of self-driving functions wielded by its more advanced counterpart at CEATEC.
Still, the Advanced Driver Assist System Leaf can automatically stay in its lane, change lanes, exit a highway, overtake a slower vehicle, slow up behind traffic jams and stop at red lights.