Modified electric car provides driverless towing
Nissan Motor is expanding the role for its driverless technologies beyond personal use by modifying an intelligent electric car to tow finished vehicles around its Oppama plant in Japan. Dealers might well ask how long it will be before a similar technology moves their inventory around their own lots.
Intelligent Vehicle Towing (IVT), a fully, automated vehicle towing system, uses mapping and communication technologies - and a modified Nissan LEAF - to tow trollies of finished vehicles between loading and unloading points throughout the plant. No special infrastructure is needed for the system to operate.
The towing car is equipped with cameras and laser scanners that detect lane markings, curbs and potential obstacles or hazards around the vehicle. By cross-referencing the information with map data, the towing car calculates its own location and negotiates the route to its destination unaided. It travels within factory speed limits and automatically stops if it detects an obstacle or hazard, and sets off again when it determines that the road ahead is clear.
Driverless towing cars connect to a central traffic control system, which can monitor location, driving speed, remaining battery and operational status of each vehicle.
Trial operations of the system began a year ago. Nissan plans to continue testing the system at the Oppama plant and look at the possibilities for implementation at other plants both in and outside of Japan.