The sur­pris­ing tech­nol­ogy be­hind the fu­ture of au­ton­o­mous driv­ing

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

KUWAIT: As au­ton­o­mous driv­ing (AD) tech­nol­ogy brings new ad­vances and fea­tures to mo­bil­ity, im­por­tant ques­tions in­evitably arise. For ex­am­ple, how will driv­ers come to trust their au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles? How will ve­hi­cles com­mu­ni­cate with driv­ers and alert them to the pres­ence of other ve­hi­cles on the road? And, what ac­tions will ve­hi­cles take af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing ob­jects, signs and other road in­fras­truc­ture such as painted lanes? As Nis­san’s Tet­suya Ii­jima said in our most re­cent Medium ar­ti­cle on au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, so­cial ac­cep­tance is key to its fu­ture.

Takashi Sunda, Deputy Gen­eral Man­ager of the Au­ton­o­mous Drive Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment at Nis­san, and his team of en­gi­neers have de­vel­oped an­swers to these and other ques­tions through their work on tech­nol­ogy that en­ables com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween driv­ers and cars. In a world of ubiq­ui­tous per­sonal de­vices, we’re al­ready in­ter­act­ing with this sort of tech­nol­ogy dozens of times a day?-?you find it on your smart­phone touch­screen, on your com­puter, and even your home cof­fee ma­chine. It’s al­ready a key tech­nol­ogy in your car, where it plays a crit­i­cal role in in­stru­ment pan­els, nav­i­ga­tion touch­screens, and park­ing as­sis­tance fea­tures.

Sunda’s team is work­ing on a wide range of new tech­nolo­gies that fo­cus on how to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate and es­tab­lish trust be­tween driv­ers and their cars. Adding to the com­plex­ity, re­searchers must also fac­tor in the many dif­fer­ences in gen­der, age, ex­pe­ri­ence, ter­rain, cul­ture?-?and even dif­fer­ent coun­tries’ rules of the road. “Driv­ing is so dif­fer­ent wher­ever you go. In France, mo­tor­cy­cles fre­quently cut across high­ways, while mo­torists in the US and UK drive on op­po­site sides of the road,” he said. “There is much to con­sider on both an in­di­vid­ual level and from a cul­tural per­spec­tive. Driv­ing is very per­sonal and unique.” And that’s, why it’s im­por­tant to gather as many per­spec­tives as pos­si­ble, he said. “Un­der­stand­ing and con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ences is the most help­ful,” Sunda con­tin­ued. “But it can be dif­fi­cult to grasp at first, so the ques­tion be­comes: ‘How do you make that uni­ver­sal step to build trust?’” Find­ing the Right Bal­ance For Sunda, trans­parency holds the key.

But as AD tech­nol­ogy ad­vances, so must the in­ter­face be­tween driv­ers and their cars. Once ve­hi­cles be­gin col­lect­ing more in­for­ma­tion in sup­port of new AD fea­tures, the sys­tems will need to be able to rec­og­nize and re­act to a range of sit­u­a­tions. What’s more, the tech­nol­ogy will also need to quickly com­mu­ni­cate all in­for­ma­tion back to the driver in an easy-to-grasp man­ner. “We want even first­time cus­tomers to feel com­fort­able us­ing AD,” he said. “It all must re­main sim­ple.” Driv­ers will need to know what in­for­ma­tion the car is col­lect­ing and im­por­tantly what the ve­hi­cle is go­ing to do with that data to en­sure a safe and com­fort­able ride.

Con­sider a sce­nario in which you are chang­ing lanes and are sud­denly ap­proached by an­other car in an ad­ja­cent lane: How will your ve­hi­cle con­vey im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about the ap­proach­ing car quickly, and what will it do in re­sponse? Or, think about a city cor­ner, when a lone pedes­trian sud­denly steps off the curb and starts walk­ing across the street: What will your car need to tell you? In these sit­u­a­tions, you need to in­form but not over­whelm users. “It’s a del­i­cate bal­ance of how much in­for­ma­tion to con­trol, and how much to share,” said Sunda.

Clearly, au­ton­o­mous driv­ing will change the re­la­tion­ship be­tween driv­ers and their cars, but it’s a chal­lenge that Sunda is par­tic­u­larly cut out for. Be­fore join­ing Nis­san 16 years ago, he worked on devel­op­ing air­craft-hu­man ma­chine in­ter­faces. When work­ing on those air­planes, he had the ben­e­fit of trained pi­lots who could not only op­er­ate the air­craft, but who of­fered opin­ions on de­sign.

For the AD project, Sunda’s team mem­bers draw on their own driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences as well. But he’s quick to add that his own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind the wheel is not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to re­flect an­other driver’s ex­pe­ri­ence. In the end, the big prize for Sunda’s team is a chance to rein­vent the fu­ture of driv­ing. Sunda said as more au­ton­o­mous fea­tures are avail­able, it will have a rev­o­lu­tion­ary im­pact on the way peo­ple in­ter­act with their cars. “The change has al­ready be­gun,” he said. “We are al­ter­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween driv­ers and their cars and the ex­pe­ri­ence of driv­ing as a whole.”

Nis­san is a global full-line ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer that sells more than 60 mod­els un­der the Nis­san, In­finiti and Dat­sun brands. In fis­cal year 2015, the com­pany sold more than 5.4 mil­lion ve­hi­cles glob­ally, gen­er­at­ing rev­enue of 12.2 tril­lion yen. Nis­san en­gi­neers, man­u­fac­tures and mar­kets the world’s best-sell­ing all-elec­tric ve­hi­cle in his­tory, the Nis­san LEAF. Nis­san’s global head­quar­ters in Yoko­hama, Ja­pan man­ages op­er­a­tions in six re­gions: ASEAN & Ocea­nia; Africa, Middle East & In­dia; China; Europe; Latin Amer­ica and North Amer­ica. Nis­san has been part­nered with French man­u­fac­turer Re­nault since 1999 and Mit­subishi Mo­tors since 2016 un­der the Re­nault-Nis­san Al­liance.

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