Green self-driving cars take center stage at Tokyo show as Japan seeks …

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Could you see yourself driving this?.

TOKYO — 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. Packing a 30kWh battery with enough (EPA-rated) power for a drive up to 107 miles long, it’s the first (admittedly concept) car to show up with the carmaker’s Intelligent Driving System. The Mazda rotary engine will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017, the RX-7 will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2018, and Mazda as a company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. Notable parts of Nissan’s autonomous driving plans include special driving modes for traffic jams (where it’ll keep pace with the vehicle ahead of it while also keeping itself in the right lane), as well as restaurant recommendations based on previous trips.

In Frankfurt it was a sleek sedan, but Mercedes knows its market and it know the Japanese love box-shaped cars (boxes are the most efficient use of space and also maximise strict Japanese size restrictions). What we can really take from this all this hype is that the grille on future Mercedes cars will be a bit bigger and the instrument display a little higher, possibly above the steering wheel.

Nissan Motor Co. showed a concept vehicle, loaded with laser scanners, an eight-way 360 degree camera setup, a radar and computer chips so the car can “think” to deliver autonomous driving. No we don’t know what the name means either, but this is Suzuki’s crazy way of saying we are working on a new version of the Suzuki Carry delivery van. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn explained that Nissan is aiming towards a zero emission, zero accident future, where autonomous driving helps reduce traffic accidents — of which 90 percent are due to driver error. With a 1.5-litre engine which powers the rear wheels “for driving fun”, it’s already being dubbed a “Toyota 43” because it is half a Toyota 86.

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. As is the case with nearly all prototypes, concepts and distant product launches in Japan, the company is planning to launch a car that approaches this concept by 2020 — when the Olympics return to Tokyo. 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 obviously 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 ones, 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. Automakers envision a future in which cars would work much like smartphones today, to have passengers checking email, watching movies or checking out social media and leave the driving to the car. Honda Chairman Fumihiko Ike, head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, which is organizing the show, running through Nov. 8, said the Japanese government was putting tremendous pressure on this nation’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 off a van, and the human brain has better powers of the imagination than the best artificial intelligence, he said.

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