Latest News

Nissan showcases driverless cars in Japan


At Nissan’s Oppama plant in Japan, Leaf vehicles have been seen towing vehicles on a trailer to the wharf for loading onto transport ships.

The company showcased its vehicles earlier this week, where a driverless Leaf travelled along the road, pulling a trailer with three other Leafs on it. The car stopped for other vehicles on the road before turning into a parking lot.


Image: AP/Koji Sasahara


The demonstration was not without fault however, as one vehicle refused to move, requiring the intervention of a human driver.

According to Nissan vice president Kazuhiro Doi, this was the first time such an incident had occurred in the system’s 1700 runs. He attributed the machine’s failure to electronic pollution caused by press cameras, while also noting that such glitches are a unique challenge for the technology.

“If there are drivers, they can take action,” he said.

“Mechanical operations are all there is in a driverless car.”

While drivers were still required to enter the towed vehicles to drive them to the proper wharf, Nissan hopes the cars will eventually be able to drive themselves onto the ships.

Driverless cars are not currently allowed on public roads in Japan, although they are legal within private facilities such as Nissan’s.

Nissan executive Haruhiko Yoshimura said the company hopes to utilise driverless cars throughout the Oppama plant by 2019, and in overseas plants in the future.

Meanwhile, the company has vowed to speed up the deployment of autonomous vehicle technology through research into the cultural norms around driving in different countries.

“The way people drive in Sao Paolo differs from the way people drive in Silicon Valley, California. What is socially acceptable in Sao Paolo differs is not socially acceptable in Silicon Valley,” said Maarten Sierhuis, director at Nissan’s Research Centre in Silicon Valley.

“Autonomous cars will need to take this into account.”

Therefore, Nissan has employed anthropologists and sociologists to study traffic patterns, pedestrian movements and the behaviours of other road users. By identifying these patterns, the company believes that autonomous vehicles can then be pre-programmed to deal with different cultural nuances, thus making the transition to driverless cars easier.

“There are patterns that we can perhaps prime into the cars so the systems will be able to interpret the environment,” said Melissa Cefkin, principal scientist and design anthropologist at Nissan Research Centre.

“With a social lens, we can do this without relying on miles and decades of technological sensing.”

Send this to a friend