A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Playing with Nissan’s Future Safety and Eco-Friendly Technologies

As the bus transporting me and fellow journalists pulled into Nissan’s GRANDRIVE facility located south of Yokohama, Japan, a portion of the test track was littered with life-sized inflatable cars, mannequins, and special development vehicles. We immediately “oohed” and “ahhed” like kindergarteners on a field trip. But to Nissan, the set up was far from child’s play. Instead, the props played an important role at the automaker’s 2012 Advanced Technology Briefing, an event that served as a showcase for features we can expect to see in Nissan and Infiniti lineups in the coming years.
Among the highlights was Nissan’s Autonomous Emergency Steering System. I was escorted to the aforementioned track full of props where a Nissan Leaf and a team of engineers awaited me. Equipped with five laser scanners, five radars, and a front-mounted camera, the Leaf was clearly no ordinary electric hatchback. I was asked to sit in the back with Tetsuya Iijima, general manager of Nissan’s Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Engineering Group, while another engineer took the driver’s seat. Iijima, who has had his hand in many of the company’s advanced safety features including Lane Departure Warning and Around View Camera, explained how the system works. The lasers and radars are located on the lower front air dam and on the sides of the car near the front and rear bumpers, while the camera is mounted above the rearview mirror. They scan the road for two things: possible obstacles in the car’s path and escape routes in the event of an impending collision (a dash-mounted screen displayed obstacles as dots and safe zones as green patches).
Finally it was demo time. After reaching a speed of 25-30 mph, we drove alongside the row of inflatable cars to our right when a mannequin was suddenly pushed onto our path. Within seconds an emergency beep sounded and the engineer let go of the steering wheel as it started spinning on its own (Look ma, no hands!). The Leaf veered toward a clear and safe path on the left. Iijima emphasized that the emergency steering system is an absolute last line of defense when it’s too late for braking or driver intervention. He says the system won’t be ready for a few more years and the biggest challenge is how to make the iPhone-sized sensors smaller.
While Iijima’s team is obviously busier than ever, we asked him what the next big thing is. Though the timeline is unknown, he mentioned self-driving cars. “As you can see, this Leaf essentially has most of the technology needed for autonomous cars,” he says while gesturing to the EV like a proud matador. “I feel that society needs these cars, especially old people who need to get around to live a full life.”
Nissan also had another Leaf on hand that killed two technological birds with one stone. First, it demonstrated the automaker’s self-parking feature, which operates similarly to those already on the market. When the car is stopped, you can select a parking spot on the infotainment touch screen (either parallel or perpendicular). For my demo, the Leaf backed into a perpendicular spot equipped with Nissan’s wireless charging system. The induction pad sits on the ground and electromagnetically charges the Leaf’s battery, eliminating the need for pesky cords. It’s an interesting idea, but one that comes with plenty of practical challenges.
Nissan Steer by Wire

I also sampled Nissan’s new steer-by-wire system, which we reported on last week. To recap, the system ditches the conventional rack and pinion setup in favor of two actuators regulated by three electric control unit (ECU) modules. One actuator senses and controls steering wheel inputs and force and the second actuator controls steering angle. Nissan says ditching the mechanical link saves weight and increases fuel economy, though exact figures weren’t available. More importantly, engineers claim improved handling, both in a straight line and through turns. The system also includes a camera that monitors a number of factors including upcoming turns and road imperfections.



Leave a Reply