Nissan Conducts First Public Expressway Test of Autonomous Drive LEAF (w/video)

NOV 25 2013 BY MARK KANE 12

Nissan LEAF with Autonomous Drive capability

Nissan LEAF with Autonomous Drive capability

Nissan announced that it recently carried out the first public road test of Autonomous Drive on a Japanese highway.

The event took place at the Sagami Expressway in Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo – near the “Sagami Robot Industry Special Zone.”

Passengers of Autonomous LEAF at first were Nissan Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga and the prefecture’s Governor, Yuji Kuroiwa, and then journalists got on board.

Toshiyuki Shiga stated:

“Nissan seeks a safer, more comfortable and environmentally-friendly mobile future. Through these tests on an expressway, we hope to further advance our technological development, with the goal of soon implementing Autonomous Drive vehicles. When starting a new project, serious effort is required to gain an understanding of all the variables involved. We were able to conduct this important testing on the Sagami Expressway thanks to the strong support from Kanagawa Prefecture.”

The Nissan LEAF that was used in the public road tests is the first autonomous vehicle granted a license plate in Japan.  The granting of the license happened in September.

“Nissan’s prototypes are equipped with Autonomous Drive technology that detects road conditions and automatically operates the car’s main controls, including steering, braking and acceleration. The vehicles can operate in full automatic mode on the expressway, merge into traffic, change lanes and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.”

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12 Comments on "Nissan Conducts First Public Expressway Test of Autonomous Drive LEAF (w/video)"

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They say these things are using radar. That bothers me a little bit. For several reasons, actually. For one thing we’re already bombarded by enough RF energy every day from cell phones, TV stations, etc. But the main issue I have is what happens when lots of cars show up on the roads all transmitting radar signals. At what point do the cars become confused and no longer can differentiate between radar reflections and radar signals from hundreds of other cars around them?

Laser scanners, most commonly. Low power radar (that dissipates within the range of a WiFi signal), I think, is used to judge distance to the next car, in addition to the laser scanners and cameras that analyze surroundings. Right now, I imagine the radar, laser, and camera trifecta of sensors is more a safety/redundancy/development factor than a real-world component of the system… chances are, Nissan won’t be installing expensive radar in the final product. That’s just my take on it.

Either way, the system has to be low power enough to not suck substantial power out of the car, so it can’t be blasting *that* much RF energy around…

Of course, there’s also the fact that lane-assist and intelligent cruise control are already common technologies, so having more of those on the road shouldn’t be an issue. I think they’ve already figured out the answer to that question. 😉

Hmm, perfect sunny day.. nice dark asphalt contrasting with perfectly painted white lines… no traffic.. yeah that’s realistic.

Watch the video. They pass slower cars. This is just a first drive on public roads. Give it a rest already. “Let’s beta test our applications in production!”

Sorry, but as a controls engineer, who also has to plan for worst-case scenarios and what-if’s; when I think about self-driving cars, my mind explodes with potential issues. The sensors are not as reliable has human vision, and the computers do not have AI, (definitely not anywhere near human level intelligence). Computers/robots are great at doing what you tell them to do, over & over, but when something new comes along, they are unpredictable. There are so many unknown unknowns with driving.. there’s is no way to plan for them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I love pilot-assist driving (I actually think automatic braking should be made standard), I just don’t think we are anywhere near handing 100% control over to a computer while we sit in the back seat texting. If Nissan sells an autonomous car in 2020, I’ll buy everyone here a pizza. Maybe it will be delivered by an autonomous car.

In 2007 when autonomous cars was just starting to be tested they couldn’t go 100 meters on an almost straight road with no other trafic.
In 2013 Google has a fleet of cars that can easily navigate in cities including handeling all the unexpected events so far (no accidents). BMW has developed an autonomous car that has done a shitload of km on the autobahn and Nissan have a Leaf driving around capable of driving in cities and on highways.
There will be issues but most of them will be with conservative people having a hard time dealing with not driving themselves and with rules, regulations and such things as insurance and responsability issues.

A computer driver instead of a human driver will eradicate so many human errors and accidents.

7 more years is a long time and I’m looking forward to my pizza (even though I highly doubt it can be delivered to me by an autonomous car since it will probably be sold in Japan or in California/Oregon if Tesla or Google will be first or maybe in South Korea).

Closed courses & controlled environments are not reality. If it can’t work in every situation (snow storm for example), then it’s not ready. Next, you could argue that this wouldn’t be used in a snow storm, but that leaves a huge gray area where some decisions need to be made, and who gets to make those decisions, and what do the lawyers think about this?

I’m usually very optimistic about technology advancing, but I just don’t see this happening as quick as many people seem to think. Will it happen, yes. Will it be in the next 7 years, no.

Does Nissan look to be further ahead than competition ? Not seen any others do this with high level political leaders on board – even in a “perfect sunny day.. nice dark asphalt contrasting with perfectly painted white lines” setting.

I’m not sure where Google is at. Darpa had some competitions in the 2000’s. GM/CMU won the Urban Competition. When they can get the off-road versions working reliably, I’ll feel more comfortable about the urban versions.

This is technology that has been in the works for a while now. Google has really done a lot in this area with Nissan

Yep. But I thought Google was working with Prius’s not Nissan?

With all the analyzing we do of vehicle performance of all kinds – it’s oft
forgotten that hundreds if not thousands of hours of our lives is spent in
gridlock. I live near the city that is considered 2nd or 3rd worst in America
for interstate gridlock. I believe LA is considered worse and a new leader
is Honolulu. But we’re up there, for sure. Just think of megacities like
Tokyo or Hong Kong and all the rest!

These applications make sense for high density zones and rush hour
driving. I think much more is to come since we can only spend so many
billions on infrastructure revisions and mass transit is sadly lacking in
the USA. This seems the way forward to ease congestion in large cities
without shooting out hundreds of billions in light rail, underground trains,
the wasteful “high speed rail”, or Elon’s hyperloop pie-in-the-sky.

I see lots of promise ahead. With the sensors for cruise control we have
today, accident avoidance can lead to driver assistance and speed
control and spacing between vehicles to maintain constant speeds through
certain areas. Our electric cars can’t perform at all if we’re crawling along
at 2-4 mph, an all-too-familiar song here in Seattle – and getting worse every
single day.