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Nissan reveals Leaf Autonomous Drive prototype

Mon, 07 Oct 2013

What a difference a year makes. Last year Nissan exhibited a self-parking car at CEATEC, Japan's largest show for IT and electronics. Back then a Nissan NSC-2015 concept car, a Nissan Leaf with what seemed like a couple hundred pounds worth of computers in the trunk, was able to find a parking spot for itself under controlled conditions and park itself. That system operated by pulling up a map of that location from a cloud source (in the digital sense) and creating a route which it navigated, using sophisticated cameras to look for open spots. Back in 2012 it was noted that this technology was still a few years away from its commercial debut.

At this year's CEATEC expo Nissan debuted an even more impressive concept, one which exhibited the company's evolving Nissan Leafs with Autonomous Drive technology which Nissan promises to become available on its cars by the year 2020. This time around a Nissan Leaf with no driver but passengers on board was able to navigate a much more complex road course, though inside a huge hangar. The Leaf shuttled around the automotive press, as well as Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda.

The Leaf Autonomous Drive prototype used five cameras and five laser sensors to navigate a round a mock road course, with the car being able to sense painted lines on the road surface, and being able to sense other cars on the same road course. Needless to say, the Nissan Leaf that visitors could get a ride in was much more complex than the Leaf that exhibited the automatic valet park function last year, as it was able to perform such tasks as yielding to other cars and moving around stalled vehicles all by itself.

Admittedly, the Autonomous Drive Nissan Leafs are still a few years away from being able to keep up with Lincoln Town Car limos doing twice the speed limit on Manhattan's FDR Drive, but for now Nissan seems to be one of the leaders in self-driving car technology, one which Nissan promises in just a few years. With the kinds of advances that Nissan has made in just a short period of time, they certainly have the world's attention, which is why the Leaf prototype took home the top award for autonomous driving technology at the CEATEC, expo. And Nissan Leafs with advanced driver-assist, a precursor to Autonomous Drive, are ready to start testing on public roads in Japan.

By Jay Ramey