Nissan Motor to test self-driving cars at plant in Japan

Nissan Motor Co plans to test self-driving cars at one of its plants in Japan to tow vehicles on a trailer to the wharf for loading.

According to the Japanese automaker's line of thinking the technology would over the long run, save costs and boost efficiency. The tests could also add to knowledge needed to take such autonomous driving onto public roads.

According to Nissan executive Haruhiko Yoshimura the automaker hoped to use the technology throughout the Oppama plant by 2019, and in overseas plants in the future.

The company organised a demonstration on Monday, which saw a Leaf with no one inside drive itself and pull a trailer with three other Leafs on it. It stopped for other vehicles, and then drove away into a parking lot.

The company's Intelligent Mobility vision is a framework for how cars would be driven, powered, and integrated into society. The new Intelligent Vehicle Towing (IVT), a fully automated vehicle towing system, utilises mapping and communication technologies to link an intelligent and all-electric car to infrastructure, in a step towards the realisation of Nissan Intelligent Integration. 

Unlike conventional automatic guided vehicle systems for transporting parts, which often necessitate the installation of rails or extensive use of magnetic tape, needs no special infrastructure to operate. The towing car comes with an array of cameras and laser scanners that detect lane markings, curbs and potential obstacles or hazards around the vehicle. With the cross-referencing of the information with map data, the towing car calculates its own location, negotiating the route to its destination unaided.

The towing car traveled within the speed limits of the factory, and automatically stopped if it detected an obstacle or hazard ahead, when it had determined that the road ahead was clear. Changes to the towing route are easy to make to allow for changes in production processes or vehicle transport routes.