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The Future of Cars: Autonomous…and Electric

This self-driving Nissan LEAF can intelligently judge who goes first at an intersection. Nissan is commercializing the cars by 2020. (Nissan photo)

The future of the automobile is driver-free—and it’s electric, too. When Nissan announced in rather dramatic fashion that it would produce a commercial autonomous vehicle by 2020, the company showed off a prototype loaded down with cameras, laser scanners, radar and sonar sensors. It could have been any car in Nissan’s stable, but it was a LEAF battery car.

“Electric cars are well suited to autonomous drive (AD) because all actuators are already electrified with precise controllability,” said Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman. “Of course, AD is also technically possible when paired with vehicles powered by internal combustion or hybrid powertrains.”
It Knows the Rules of the Road

As the New York Times pointed out, “Nissan’s introduction of the fully electric LEAF was a bold move. An autonomous-drive vehicle takes the company’s boldness to a new level.”

The autonomous LEAF offered passenger service to journalists at the Miramar Air Force base in Orange County, California this week. Using its onboard technology, the LEAF approached an intersection and—versed in the rules of the road—waited for a car that had arrived there first to go through before it proceeded. The LEAF merged into traffic, and maneuvered around cones set up to simulate a construction zone. And it did all this without the big, protruding antennas and visible cameras that make some autonomous cars look like moon landers


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