Nissan has begun utilizing modified, self-driving Leaf EVs to tow trollies at its Oppama Plant, according to a new press release from the Japanese company.
The new system — dubbed Intelligent Vehicle Towing (IVT) — is part of the company’s general push to “integrated vehicles” (the company’s “Intelligent Mobility” vision) and seemingly represents a strong step towards that goal.
What makes the system notable is that it doesn’t rely on installed guidance of any kind (no magnetic tape, rails, etc.) — it simply relies on onboard cameras, laser scanners, and detailed map data. As you can see, the autonomous vehicle is a modified Nissan LEAF (electric car).
The press release provides more:
“The IVT system uses a modified Nissan LEAF to autonomously tow trollies carrying finished vehicles between designated loading and unloading points at the plant. … The towing car travels within the speed limits of the factory, and automatically stops if it detects an obstacle or hazard ahead, before setting off again when it has determined that the road ahead is clear.
“The towing route can easily be altered to accommodate changes in production processes or vehicle transport routes. All driverless towing cars are connected to a central traffic control system, which can monitor the location, driving speed, remaining battery and operational status of each vehicle. When two driverless towing cars meet at an intersection, the control system’s algorithm determines which car should be given right-of-way, and in case of emergency, the system can stop the vehicles remotely.”
It’s an interesting system, and likely quite a money saver for the company (eventually). The previous setup at the company’s Oppama Plant required that finished vehicles be transported by a team of human drivers to a nearby wharf to be loaded onto ships.
The possibility of automating that whole process is probably pretty enticing to Nissan.
Trial operations reportedly began around a year ago at the plant, and there have been more than 1,600 autonomous test runs there since then. So, things seem to be coming along — probably quicker than many of us expected.