Autonomous Nissan Leaf navigates Japanese highway

Nissan, in a bid to move forward the cause of autonomous driving vehicles, recently completed its first public road test on a Japanese highway of a robotic Leaf electric car. The automaker wasted little time in completing this test, as it was only in late September that it was licensed by governmental officials to let one of its driverless cars on the road.

The Leaf in question, while not directly controlled by a human, did have some important individuals on board, including the company’s vice chairman and the regional governor where the test took place. This locale was in the Kanagawa Prefecture, specifically near

the “Sagami Robot Industry Special Zone,” an area that is being revitalized with the help of the local government. Projects include the development of life-assist robots which are equipped with sensors, artificial intelligence, and control systems. The public road test conducted in the special zone will help Nissan to develop Autonomous Drive towards its goal of being ready with commercially-viable vehicles by 2020.

Vehicles that are equipped with this autonomous technology are able to detect road conditions and automatically operates the car’s main controls, including steering, braking and acceleration. Some specific examples of how this comes into play include lane keeping, distance control, lane changes, overtaking, highway merges, highway exits and interchanges.

image via Nissan

“Nissan seeks a safer, more comfortable and environmentally-friendly mobile future,” said Toshiyuki Shiga, vice chairman of Nissan, in a statement. “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.

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling