The first ever vehicle with autonomous drive capabilities has been granted a license plate in Japan, allowing the Nissan LEAF Autonomous Drive to take to the streets of Tokyo. The brave participant in this first time event? None other than the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; demonstrating the strong support that the Japanese government show for new vehicle technologies.
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The Prime Minister was taken on a drive along the roads around the National Diet Front Garden, a public park in the centre of Tokyo positioned between the Imperial Palace and Japan’s parliament. The event was organised by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in conjunction with three Japanese automobile manufacturers to showcase the country’s progress in developing technologies such as autonomous drive systems and the support that the government gives to the industry.
The Nissan LEAF acts as the base model upon which autonomous drive technologies are tested. The vehicle which drove the Prime Minister around was equipped with various cameras, laser scanners, and radar, all of which help it to detect other cars on the road, nearby pedestrians, traffic lights, traffic signs, and any other object that could impact on the vehicle as it moves along its programmed route.
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All data gathered by the vehicles sensory systems is processed by an on-board computer that then makes appropriate decisions and manipulates the car through automatic control of acceleration, braking, direction, and more.
The Nissan LEAF Autonomous Drive prototype was first unveiled at Nissan 360, an event held in California in August 2013 to show off and test drive new technologies. The company announced that it plans to offer a commercially available Autonomous Drive by the end of the decade, and that the technology will be sold for the entire model range within two vehicle generations.
Nissan is now working on the construction of an autonomous drive proving ground that will test the vehicle and its technologies to the limit in a large number of dangerous situations that they may face in the real world when released for public sale.
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