Nissan Reveals Its Path To An Autonomous Future At CES

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【Summary】At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Nissan unveiled its future plans to expand its vehicles’ autonomous capabilities and reach a future where zero-emissions and zero-fatalities is possible.

Original   Vineeth Joel Patel  ·  Jan 05, 2017 7:07 PM WST
author: Vineeth Joel Patel   

As one of the few automakers to have planted its feet prominently in the fuel-efficient sector of the automotive industry with the release of the all-electric Nissan Leaf in 2010, the Japanese automaker is now setting its sights on advancing its vehicles' autonomous capabilities and mobility services. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a few individuals from the company, including CEO of Nissan and its chairman Carlos Ghosn, shed some light on the future of self-driving technology. 

The move to a more autonomous future isn't necessarily surprising, as Nissan joins the entire industry's move towards self-driving vehicles. As Ghosn predicts, 15 percent of new vehicles sold in 2030 will be autonomous. But that's not the only thing in the automaker's or the industry's future. As Ghosn claims, the entire industry is defined by a triangle, which includes self-driving cars, connected vehicles and electric cars. In light of this, Ghosn believes that the automotive industry will see more change in the next 10 years, than what has occurred in the past 50. 

For Nissan, it's alliance with Renault and, more recently, Mitsubishi will result in approximately 10 autonomous vehicles by 2020. With only three years to go, Nissan is rushing towards its goal as the average driver spends roughly an hour in the vehicle a day, consumers beg for the ability to multitask while driving; and drivers, especially younger ones, want to constantly be connected. 

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The last point, being connected to other drivers on the road and other autonomous vehicles, is a major object for Nissan. The Japanese automaker introduced new technology in Europe that connects two individuals together, using their social media accounts, in regard to sharing a vehicle. 

The idea of this type of integration is part of Nissan's Mobility plan. The design includes three core aspects: Intelligent Driving, Intelligent Power and Intelligent Integration. The first one, Intelligent Driving, is part of the automaker's goal to make self-driving cars safer thanks to advanced driving systems and enhanced safety features. 

Intelligent Power refers to strides that are happening in battery-powered vehicles and the drive to produce zero-emission cars. Lastly, Intelligent Integration refers to various types of technology the automaker hopes to employ to keep autonomous vehicles connected to one another, while working alongside non-autonomous cars. 

Engineering vehicles that can communicate with one another and with non-self-driving vehicles is one of Nissan's five core partnerships and technologies. As Dr. Maarten Sierhuis, Director of Nissan Research Center at Silicon Valley, CA, revealed, to be able to do this, the automaker engineered Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM). 

SAM was created jointly between Nissan and NASA, to allow the automaker's vehicles to respond to random obstacles on the road. As of right now, automakers and engineers are creating software that requires drivers to take control of the vehicle to traverse an unpredictable situation. Nissan, though, wants to put the control into its hands. 

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Thanks to SAM, when one of Nissan's self-driving cars encounters an obstacle, it alerts a "mobility manager" that assess the situation, using the car's cameras and sensors, and then creates a route for the vehicle to avoid the obstacle. Once the self-driving car passes the barrier, control is handed back to the autonomous vehicle. The same route that was used to avoid the situation is then shared with other autonomous vehicles on the road, allowing passengers to bypass the obstacle without wasting time. 

Autonomous vehicles for the regular public is just one part of Nissan's plan, as the automaker teamed up with DeNA, a Japanese Internet company, to begin testing its self-driving cars that will be for commercial use only. The testing will begin in Tokyo, Japan and the automaker hopes to expand the testing to the city's metropolitan areas by 2020. In this partnership, DeNA will provide the mobility service platform, while Nissan, as well as Renault, will provide the self-driving software and cars. 

Another part of Nissan's core plans for an autonomous future lies on the next-gen Leaf. While Nissan didn't state when the next generation of the electric vehicle will be released, the Japanese automaker confirmed that the car will come with ProPilot. The self-driving technology made its first appearance on the Serena, a minivan only sold in Japan and Europe, which allows the vehicle to have autonomous capabilities on single-lane highways. Thanks to the technology, the minivan can control the distance between the vehicle in front of it, keep itself in the middle of the lane, and bring itself to a complete stop. 

According to Senior Vice President of Nissan, Takao Asami, the future of ProPilot includes autonomous driving on multi-lane highways by 2018, as well as fully autonomous city driving by 2020. 

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The software behind allowing its vehicles to get around without a driver isn't the only revolutionary thing Nissan has in store. The Japanese automaker plans to use its partnership with Microsoft, which was announced last September, to develop connected car applications. As outlined by Ogi Redzic, Renault-Nissan Alliance Senior Vice President, Microsoft will help drivers see their vehicles as more than just a way to get from one point to another. 

Cortana, Microsoft's version of a personal assistant, will be integrated into Nissan's cars to provide passengers with various features that improve the convenience of owning a vehicle. Cortana, for instance, will provide passengers with another route when it senses a traffic jam, knows the owner's schedule, send emails, store personalized settings and provide users with a streamlined experience that rivals an integrated device. 

Lastly, the automaker also took some time to announce a new partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, a non-profit group founded by the Rockefeller Foundation that aid cities build resilience to various challenges, including physical, economic and social. By working together with the non-profit organization, Nissan will help cities around the world prepare for the upcoming movement in mobility and autonomous capabilities. 

The new partnership is a win-win for the chosen cities and for Nissan, as the Japanese automaker plans to use the locations as a way to test its self-driving technology. 

As Ghosn claims, the largest transformation, at least when it comes to mobility and autonomous features will take place in cities and Nissan wants to be one of the leaders that helps pave the way to ease congestion, lower energy costs and help the environment. 

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