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Nissan joins driverless car club with demo of NSC-2015 vehicle

If Google’s self-driving car project were to take a cursory glance in its rear view mirror, it’d see quite a number of companies racing up behind it, with Japanese automobile maker Nissan most definitely among them.

At the Ceatec electronics show in Tokyo this week, the car company unveiled the NSC-2015, a vehicle that can drive and park itself.

The car’s technology comprises on-board sensors and cameras, several computers and a connection to the cloud. The idea is that once you arrive at the entrance to a parking lot, you simply hop out and hit the ‘park’ button on its accompanying smartphone app. The car then trundles off, finds a free space and parks itself – perfectly. When you return, you ‘call’ your car and wait for it to arrive.

In an interview with IDG (see video below), Tooru Futami, engineering director of Nissan’s electronics engineering development division, explained that tapping the park button pulls a map from the cloud.

Next, four cameras located on the car analyze the surrounding scene to help it determine its location on the map. Once this is achieved, the car can head off in search of a space while you head off to your appointment.

In a demonstration at Ceatec, the NSC-2015 was able to recognize road markings, be controlled remotely via an app by a person based outside the vehicle, and park itself. It didn’t move along particularly quickly though, reportedly reaching a speed of just 3mph (5km/h). Perhaps Nissan was just being cautious with its new technology; it wouldn’t, after all, want to see its prototype careering out of sight at high speed in the event a computer malfunction with its fledgling technology.

Early stages

Futami told Forbes the vehicle was currently unable to self-drive along a street or park in any space. At the present time, its technology only allows it to self-park in a parking lot with sensors, and even then only one containing other robotic cars to eliminate the chance of a knock. The NSC-2015, which is an adapted version of its Leaf car, clearly isn’t ready for public roads and parking lots just yet, though as its name suggests, the company is aiming to get it on the market in one form or another in or around 2015.

Google’s self-driving vehicle has so far driven more than 300,000 miles in tests, with company co-founder Sergey Brin hoping to have the car in showrooms in the next five years. Last month California governor Jerry Brown signed a driverless car bill into law, establishing safety guidelines and performance regulations for testing and operating the special vehicles on the state’s roads and highways.

[via BBC]