Nissan places trust in ‘smart’ strategies for mobility

It’s probably no coincidence that with the increasing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) that the second of these two words has become something of a touchstone for Nissan.

The manufacturer uses the word liberally in its description of its strategies for both mobility solutions and autonomous technology.

Speaking to TU-Automotive at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Nissan Europe’s general manager advanced planning, Stewart Callegari, stressed the importance of ‘intelligent’ solutions to consumers’ needs.

He explained: “Intelligent mobility in Nissan is an overarching approach to what we are looking at on how we move forward in terms of bringing technology to customers. One of the weak points that, maybe, we and some of our customers have had is really focusing on what the technology is. We’ve [ADAS systems such as] a front emergency brake or something else but failing to realise how we communicate with the customer and making it much simpler for customers to understand what we are trying to do.”

To combat this communication issue, Nissan has identified the major constituent parts of mobility that it wants to convey to customers.

Callegari said: “So basically we bracketed intelligent mobility into 3 key areas:

  • Intelligent driving – focusing on the technologies involved in day-to-day driving including autonomous drive technology; 
  • Intelligent power – focusing on developments around power, so of course you have the Leaf with E-Power technology;
  • Intelligent integration – we have vehicle-to-grid, vehicle-to-home technology and seamless autonomous mobility technology that we’re working on too.” 

Callegari said he driverless technology is firmly focused on the safety benefits to consumers and society as a whole. He said: “In terms of intelligent driving, the area I focus upon, I think it is important to understand that today 93% of accidents are caused by driver error alone so autonomous driving technology has the opportunity to reduce this dramatically.  What Nissan has done over time is to develop a series of technologies where we bundled it under a safety shield concept with vehicles like the Qashqai and X-Trail and previous generation of Note, where we are looking to avoid accidents.”

Unlike some other carmakers, Nissan see ADAS leading to autonomous technologies as something that should be aimed at mass market products. Callegari explained: “We continue to develop these technologies to bring them to customers and the key point for Nissan when we bring these technologies is focusing on one key area which is wanting to bring technology that is useful to customers and accessible to everybody. Because if it is accessible to everybody then we can get a mass adoption for everybody, particularly when we come to autonomous drive technology. That will mean we can move faster towards the ultimate goal of bringing more AD vehicles to the road, of course improving emissions and safety on the road as well.”  

Nissan has been conducting several real-world autonomous driving trials including, early 2017, a 560km drive around the East End of using technology close to the Seamless Autonomous mobility (SAM) suite launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Developed with engineers at NASA and at the California Institute of Technology, Nissan says the technology takes into account the limitations of current AI.

Callegari said: “The team in our Silicon Valley office, led by Maarten Sierhuis, understood the limitation of the AI we can use at the moment. What this means is that, when you re looking at an autonomous driving vehicle, it will recognise the road in front of it but if something dramatically different happens, for example a car in front of you breaks down, it will cause an autonomous vehicle to stop because it won’t recognise the situation or know how to manage it.

“So, if you’ve double white lines on one side and broken down car in front of you, by law, you can’t overtake, you have to sit stationary and wait. SAM technology allows the car to feedback to a help centre/hub where there is a mobility manager/helper that will help to support each of the autonomous cars. In that case, the technology will feed back data in the car to the mobility manager who will then feed a path to the vehicle it will use to get past the obstacle in a safe manner.  This is then recorded and replicated so if another autonomous vehicle gets close to the same obstacle it will again recognise the obstacle ahead of it and know how to manage the situation.”

Callegari recognises that making the technology cheap enough to deploy on mass market level vehicles is a huge challenge. He said: “The key challenge is the cost, the systems we use and develop today are very high end. We make an intention of what we want to do and then we focus on making and engineering the software internally as much as possible to try and make it cost competitive and we’ve been able to do that on technologies. We’ve had guys working on this since the mid ’90s so it is something that is a long time in the making for Nissan and something we are very focused on developing as part of our broader strategy towards zero emissions.”


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