Nis­san test car drives it­self safely, rec­og­nizes pedes­tri­ans

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Wheels - Yuri Kageyama

TOKYO — Be­ing a pas­sen­ger in a self­driv­ing car is sim­i­lar to be­ing driven around by a very cau­tious per­son, maybe your grand­mother.

Re­quir­ing nei­ther hands on the steer­ing wheel nor a foot on the gas pedal or brakes, the Nis­san Mo­tor Co. car making its way on Ja­panese pub­lic roads is in­stead packed with radars, lasers, cam­eras and com­puter chips.

Nis­san’s “in­tel­li­gent driv­ing” fea­ture is smart enough to nav­i­gate in­ter­sec­tions with­out lane mark­ers. It also brakes safely to a stop with­out crash­ing into the ve­hi­cle in front, and it knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween a red light and a tail-lamp.

Re­porters were given a half-hour test ride in the pro­to­type ve­hi­cle Tues­day on a scenic but pre­pro­grammed course on Tokyo roads, which in­cluded stop­ping at traf­fic lights, making turns, chang­ing lanes and cross­ing a bridge across the bay.

The car was painstak­ingly care­ful, like some­one ex­tra cau­tious on the road.

It al­ways stayed within the speed limit. And it slowed down, ap­pear­ing to be “think­ing” at slightly com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tions, such as cars com­ing from an­other lane. The sys­tem is de­signed to rec­og­nize peo­ple and if a pedes­trian jumped out onto the road, the car should come to a stop.

Nis­san, which also makes the In­finiti lux­ury model and the March sub­com­pact, is preparing the au­ton­o­mous driv­ing op­tion for ve­hi­cles go­ing on sale in 2020.

It plans to have ab­bre­vi­ated ver­sions of the tech­nol­ogy start­ing from next year, such as keep­ing a safe dis­tance from the car in front on con­gested roads.

The car ex­pe­ri­enced by The As­so­ci­ated Press is still un­able to deal with un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tions, such as mov­ing to the side of the road if an am­bu­lance ap­proaches. At one point, the hu­man driver, who was in the seat for the whole test ride, had to in­ter­vene be­cause the car didn’t prop­erly rec­og­nize an un­clearly drawn lane.

Oth­er­wise, it did fine.

Nis­san Gen­eral Man­ager Tet­suya Ii­jima, who was the hu­man driver for the test ride, ac­knowl­edged the sys­tem needs fine-tun­ing. But he was con­fi­dent it was the way of the fu­ture, de­liv­er­ing bet­ter safety, be­cause more than 90 per­cent of traf­fic ac­ci­dents are caused by driver er­ror.

When com­pared with a hu­man, Nis­san’s pro­to­type is only three or four years old, maybe six at most, and the goal is to help it ma­ture to a 20-yearold, he said.

“It’s like a kid,” said Ii­jima, em­u­lat­ing a child walk­ing slowly, a step at a time. “We need to make it understand the world — the se­vere world.”

(AP PHOTO)

SMART ENOUGH. Nis­san’s “in­tel­li­gent driv­ing” fea­ture is smart enough to nav­i­gate in­ter­sec­tions with­out lane mark­ers. It also brakes safely to a stop with­out crash­ing into the ve­hi­cle in front, and it knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween a red light and a tail-lamp.

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