Nissan’s Autonomous Drive version of the LEAF recently hit public streets in Japan for the first time, while carrying the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, making it the first vehicle with autonomous drive capability to be given a license plate in Japan. The drive took place on the roads near the National Diet Front Garden — a public park located towards the center of Tokyo, near the Imperial Palace and the parliament.
The participation of the Prime Minister makes it very clear just how much the Japanese government is banking on the development of technologies such as autonomously driven vehicles. The drive was organized primarily by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, working closely with the three participating domestic motor companies.
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The LEAF is serving as a base vehicle for the development of autonomous drive technology. Driving on public roads is made possible with technology to detect road conditions. The vehicle is equipped with cameras, laser scanners and radar, which identify nearby pedestrians, traffic lights, traffic signs and other objects. The data is processed by an on-board computer that makes decisions which are implemented with automatically-operated controls for the vehicle’s acceleration, handling, brakes and more.
Nissan first revealed the autonomous drive prototype technology at “Nissan 360”, a vast test drive and product showcase event held in California in August-September 2013. The company announced it will be ready with commercially-viable Autonomous Drive by 2020, and the technology will be available across the model range within two vehicle generations.
A “proving ground” for the Autonomous Drive Nissan LEAF is currently being constructed at one of Nissan’s testing facilities in Japan — the facility will work to test the vehicle in a large number of potential and dangerous situations.
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