10 Things to Know for Today

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Check out Nissan’s vision of a driverless car unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show.

TOKYO (AP) — Visions of cars that drive themselves without emitting a bit of pollution while entertaining passengers with online movies and social media are what’s taking center stage at the Tokyo Motor Show. Nissan unveiled an autonomous electric vehicle that it said would “revolutionise the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility”, while Volkswagen shifted into damage control with another apology for an emissions scandal that has rocked the auto industry.

Nissan said that it’s “well on track” with plans to “equip innovative autonomous drive technology on multiple vehicles” by 2020, a goal it had initially set for itself two years ago. After the initial “traffic jam pilot” features are implemented, Nissan will be adding technology that will allow the car to drive on highways in a way it can autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes, like the Tesla Model S can. The biennial motor show’s 44th edition, which runs from Oct 28 until Nov 8, features 160 exhibitors from a dozen countries including foreign automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Peugeot Citroen, Porsche and Jaguar.

The IDS concept is a hatch design and will feature the same high-capacity 60 kWh battery pack as the Nissan Leaf, as well as another for long-distance driving range. It starts a week after Honda said it would put a commercialised self-driving car on the road by 2020, as automakers bet on vehicles that can drive and, in some cases, park themselves. Humans will still be able to drive such driverless or autonomous cars, but the option to hand over complete control to the vehicle is what makes the new technology — which companies like Apple and Google are also working towards — revolutionary. “Some have compared a future with autonomous drive to living in a world of conveyer belts that simply ferry people from point A to B,” Nissan said. “But the Nissan IDS Concept promises a very different vision of tomorrow.” “Even when the driver selects Piloted Drive and turns over driving to the vehicle, the car’s performance — from accelerating to braking to cornering — imitates the driver’s own style and preferences,” it added. Nissan Motor Co. showed a concept vehicle loaded with laser scanners, a 360 degree camera setup, a radar and computer chips so the car can “think” to deliver autonomous driving. Behind the scenes, Japan and China are seemingly locked in a fierce battle over the future of electric-car power generation — specifically, whether they should be powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel-cells.

The Japanese automaker called it IDS, which stands for “intelligent driving system.” Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, said it will offer some autonomous driving features by the end of next year in Japan. Nissan is made up of a richly diverse group of people, as reflected in the company’s leadership team and the numerous corporate outreach programs in which we participate in the community. Called the Gripz, the concept was actually inspired by Nissan’s Z series of cars and will be the spiritual successor to the current 370z sports car. The eye-popping vehicle conjures up images of the Terminator films with parts of its underbelly – including fuel tank and hoses – exposed, giving an inside look at the car’s machinery. Nissan, a leader in electric vehicles, is showing a concept car with knobs and buttons replaced by tablet-style touch screens featuring controls and maps on a white instrument panel.

Nissan officials said they were working hard to make the car smart enough to recognize the difference between a red traffic light and a tail light, learn how to turn on intersections where white lane indicators might be missing and anticipate from body language when a pedestrian might cross a street. Toyota and Honda are exhibiting their latest fuel-cell offerings, seen as the holy grail of green cars because they emit nothing but water vapour and can operate on renewable hydrogen gas. The auto giant is hoping to build on the success of its popular gasoline-electric hybrid Prius to sell tens of thousands of the eco-friendly Mirai over the next decade, as it looks to stop producing fossil-fuel based cars altogether by 2050. For Volkswagen the show was a chance to start working on regaining customer trust after it admitted fitting 11 million of its vehicles with software designed to cheat official checks.

That’s why some automakers at the show are packing the technology into what looks more like a golf cart or scooter than a car, such as Honda Motor Co.’s cubicle-like Wander Stand and Wander Walker scooter. Instead of trying to venture on freeways and other public roads, these are designed for controlled environments, restricted to shuttling people to pre-determined destinations. Regardless of how zanily futuristic and even dangerous such machines might feel, especially the idea of sharing roads with driverless cars, that era is inevitable simply because artificial intelligence is far better at avoiding accidents than human drivers, said HIS analyst Egil Juliussen. Such technology will offer mobility to people who can’t drive or who don’t have cars, and it can also reduce pollution and global warming by delivering efficient driving, he said. Other automakers, including General Motors, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Tesla are working on self-driving technology, as are companies outside the industry, such as Google and Uber.

Honda Chairman Fumihiko Ike, who is also head of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association which is organizing the show, said the Japanese government was putting tremendous pressure on Japan’s automakers to perfect self-driving features. Japan is eager to showcase such technology in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, such as having driverless cars pick up athletes from airports and taking them to Olympic Village.

Unexpected things could happen on roads, like a package falling out of a van, and the human brain has better powers of the imagination than the best artificial intelligence, he said. “It’s not that easy,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the show. “We are pursuing the technology, but we are also just being realistic.”

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