Nissan’s Self-Driving Cars Will Rely on 3D Laser Scanners

While some car manufacturers struggle even when making conventional cars, Nissan plans to employ 3D laser scanners in its self-driving cars, for unprecedented precision.

Sure, driving is very pleasant, and might even help some of us relax on the way to work or on the way back. But what if we could do something else while the car gets us to our destination. As long as all the parameters are controlled, this might also help lower the number of accidents. Nissan intends to do all this by implementing a very accurate system based on 3D laser scanners.

The Japanese automaker is not the first one to try make driverless cars. Google made undisclosed investments in self-driving cars, too, but the ones that it will make are based on different technologies. The Infiniti Q50 relies on a camera, image-processing technology, and radar, but Nissan’s Leaf will take a different approach. Tetsuya Iijima, general manager of intelligent transportation systems engineering at Nissan, clarified that “To find objects that are approaching from far away very fast, radar is the best technology. But unlike the driver-assisting features on the Q50, fully automated technology can’t make any excuses to the customer.”

The solution proposed by Nissan involves 3D laser scanner, and as Iijima put it, “We believe that we are leading this technology. Other companies still have not decided to use a laser scanner. We have come to the conclusion that laser scanners are required. The image is a regular three-dimensional picture. Each point has depth information.”

The self-driving car made by Nissan will feature six 3D laser scanners that will tell the distance between the vehicle and any object found in the vicinity. One radar in the front and two in the back will detect approaching objects. Cameras are still used for reading speed limits and detecting the color of the traffic lights. To top all that, Nissan will add 12 sonars that increase even more the accuracy of the Leaf. Talk about smart cars, huh? Nissan Leaf’s self-driving system will have a resolution of 1 cm, so the car will really be able to handle its surroundings properly.

One of the most interesting things said by Iijima is that “When the driver is no longer necessary, there is no need for cars to be owned by individuals.” More precisely, he imagines that by 2030, the whole planet will be covered with shared autonomous robots that acts as our means of transportation. I don’t know what to say about that, Mr. Iijima. Have you seen the state some places from Africa, South-Eastern Europe and South-East Asia look like?

If you liked this post, please check the self-driving car presented by Google and the driverless cars that will be tested in the UK by the end of 2013.