Nissan Introduces LEAF-Based Driverless Towing System At Oppama Plant (w/video)

DEC 6 2016 BY MARK KANE 20

Nissan has presented a driverless towing system currently in use today at its Oppama Plant in Japan, utilizing a LEAF with an array of cameras and laser scanners that detect lane markings, curbs and potential obstacles or hazards around the vehicle.

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

The prototype of a fully automated vehicle towing system Intelligent Vehicle Towing (IVT) was tested for roughly a year and already covered over 1,600 runs.

A single automated LEAF can tow up to three cars between loading and unloading points inside the plant. The workers are still needed to drive in and out.

As the IVT matured, Nissan now is considering to use driveless towing in other plants.

Editor’s Note:  Further to this technology, and how it will be applied to actual mainstream cars, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is heading to Las Vegas on January 5th to give a keynote speech on exactly this topic for the opening of CES…and maybe bringing along some new electrified products to show both in Vegas, and a few days later at the opening of the NAIAS in Detroit.

About the technology
The IVT system uses a modified Nissan LEAF to autonomously tow trollies carrying finished vehicles between designated loading and unloading points at the plant.

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Unlike conventional automatic guided vehicle systems for transporting parts, which often require the installation of rails or extensive use of magnetic tape, this system does not need any special infrastructure to operate. The towing car is equipped with an array of cameras and laser scanners that detect lane markings, curbs and potential obstacles or hazards around the vehicle. By cross-referencing this information with map data, the towing car calculates its own location, negotiating the route to its destination unaided. The towing car travels within the speed limits of the factory, and automatically stops if it detects an obstacle or hazard ahead, before setting off again when it has determined that the road ahead is clear.

The towing route can easily be altered to accommodate changes in production processes or vehicle transport routes. All driverless towing cars are connected to a central traffic control system, which can monitor the location, driving speed, remaining battery and operational status of each vehicle. When two driverless towing cars meet at an intersection, the control system’s algorithm determines which car should be given right-of-way, and in case of emergency, the system can stop the vehicles remotely.

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Background of development

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

The Oppama Plant’s existing logistics system requires finished vehicles to be transported from the end of the production line to the facility’s dedicated wharf by a team of drivers, at which point they are loaded onto ships. Introducing IVT will allow Nissan to improve production efficiency.

Since trial operations of the system began roughly a year ago, more than 1,600 test runs have been carried out at the plant. The data acquired has been utilized to ensure that the system can operate reliably within the plant’s premises. A safety system and a fail-safe system have been developed to counter potential risks or unexpected conditions the IVT system may face during autonomous driving, including adverse weather and low light conditions. Nissan will continue to test the system at its Oppama Plant, and will examine the possibility of implementation at other manufacturing facilities both in and outside Japan.

Nissan has been developing autonomous driving technology for decades. In August, the company launched ProPILOT, an award-winning single-lane autonomous driving technology for highway use. IVT further showcases Nissan’s holistic approach to mobility, expanding the advantages of driverless technologies beyond personal usage.

The data and know-how obtained through this project will help to enable broader adoption of autonomous driving technology, in order to provide new solutions to our customers, and to our society.

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant

Hat tip to wordoflife!

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20 Comments on "Nissan Introduces LEAF-Based Driverless Towing System At Oppama Plant (w/video)"

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I guess Nissan doesn’t read their own owners manuals. Don’t they know the Leaf is neither built for nor recommend for towing?

My first thought!

I have e-nv200. There is nothing about towing in the users manual.
There is company in US who manufacture towbars specially for Leafs

Nero – Lucky you!

What battery does it have?

There’s one way of increasing their range ! L M A 0….

You funny too

1st. Things 1st. Nissan Needs to do something about their “CARTOON CAR DESIGN” Then worry about the rest of it. That car is not flattering and HARD on the eyes..

The music for the soundtrack was horrible. They should have used something more upbeat, like Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones. 😉

Cars towing cars, is sort of funny but odd too. I think that at one time someone had a boring but easy job.

If they equip all their cars with autopilot hardware like Tesla, they would be able to program their cars to drive directly to the loading dock right off the assembly line without any of these towing stuff

I’m quite sure that the next generation LEAFs will be capable enough to drive to the loading dock. This seems to be one of the cases where the invention will be outdated before rollout.

What would be more interesting would be if one can rethink the factory and change order of assembly. Wouldn’t it be nice if first wheelbase drivetrain and certain sensors are assembled and then that very basic thing would drive itself around within the factory to stations where gimmicks like seats, doors windshields etc are added? Of course this would require massive rethinking of the assembly process and introduce new problems but it would make production more flexible in the long run… I think Audi is going that way…

After seeing the car graphics, is English the “official” language at the Oppama Japan plant now? 😉

I’ve always found it odd just how commonplace it is to see English signage on streets in large cities in Japan. Obviously Japanese are expected to be bilingual!

Yes Most Japanese people can interpret English and do speak it and read it had an entry-level it is required study there in grade school. “my wife was born and raised there we’ve got In-laws there and the whole famed damily”

I’d be more impressed if it pulled a food truck around the assembly plant.

Certainly a noteworthy accomplishment, but why use a passenger car like the Leaf to perform the duties of a yard mule truck?

Seems like a gimmick to me.

Now, making a yard mule truck a self-driving vehicle seems like a much easier challenge than making an autonomous vehicle which can drive on most or all public roads. Perhaps we’ll see those in actual use before we ever see fully autonomous cars sold to the general public.

It seems like a gimmick until you think about EVs having 100% of torque available from 0 RPM. Posts I’ve seen from people towing things behind their i-MiEVs or LEAFs say that they’re amazed how well these vehicles tow heavy loads. When electric pickups finally appear, I think their massive off-the-line torque will be quite appealing.

So workers still have to load and unload them. Very little,savings on a slow small mile tow at the plant.
They should be woring on their battery capacity loss. No cooling is killing them in any warm areas. This is not sustainable.

Not sure where you live, but they have a new car coming I am sure it will have a huge improvement.