Nissan driverless towing

Self-driving cars put to work at Nissan’s factory

Image credit: Nissan

Nissan is testing self-driving cars at one of its plants in Japan, towing trailers with manufactured vehicles to the port for transportation.

Nissan has ambitions to start using driverless cars in its Oppama factory regularly by 2019. The firm believes the technology will eventually reduce cost and improve efficiency.

During the test, a driverless Nissan Leaf pulled a trailer with three other Nissan Leafs. It drove along a road and stopped properly for other vehicles before turning into a car park.

Human drivers then took over to get each of the towed vehicles to the proper wharf, but Nissan hopes that as self-driving technology advances, cars will drive themselves into the ships on their own.

One of the vehicles involved in the demonstration was hit by a glitch and stopped moving completely.

“If there are drivers, they can take action,” said Kazuhiro Doi, a Nissan vice-president. “Mechanical operations are all there is in a driverless car.”

Nissan has been working on driverless technology in cooperation with Renault since last year.

In Japan, driverless vehicles are not allowed on public roads and can only be tested within private facilities.

Car-makers all over the world are increasingly focusing on driverless technology, which is expected to improve the safety and efficiency of transport in future.

Recently, Apple has sent a letter the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offering to consult on draft regulations for the driverless car sector.

“Apple looks forward to collaborating with the NHTSA and other stakeholders so that the significant societal benefits of automated vehicles can be realised safely, responsibly, and expeditiously,” the company’s director of product integrity Steve Kenner wrote.

Apple’s spokesman said the company has a stake in the industry as it is developing machine learning algorithms for autonomous systems.

“There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry.”

Apple has been suspected of seeking to develop driverless car technology of its own. However, the firm has never officially confirmed the speculations.

In the letter, Apple urges the NHTSA to create a level field for newcomers into the sector by allowing them to test on public roads similarly to established car makers.

“To maximise the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally,” Apple said.

The company also called for schemes allowing sharing of data between manufacturers about accidents and other situations.

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