A traditional Japanese “ryokan” inn near Tokyo is testing out the new products, built by one of the nation’s car giants, Nissan.
Designed to showcase the company’s ProPilot Park autonomous technology (seen in the electric 2018 Nissan Leaf, it lets cars park themselves), the slippers and other items are fitted with a modified version comprising sensors and motors (and tiny wheels!) that steer them to their original location with a simple press of a remote button.
If you’ve ever stayed at a ryokan, you’ll know all about leaving your shoes at the entrance before stepping into a pair of slippers. Being the orderly nation that it is, Japan likes to have its ryokans looking just right for guests. A pair of slightly-out-of-place slippers might not seem like a big deal to you, but to the owner of an upmarket ryokan it will look like a scene of carnage and sweat-inducing chaos, prompting a rapid intervention by staff to put the footwear in its rightful place. Even if it is three millimeters to the left.
Technology from Nissan changes all that, as its sensors expertly guide the slippers into position, leaving them perfectly lined up at the entrance at all times, creating an atmosphere of order and harmony for arriving guests as well as staff. Brilliant.
The guests in the video (above) are certainly impressed. “It’s incredible,” a man marvels as a self-driving cushion trundles toward him. “Selected guests” will be able to try out Nissan’s technology at the ryokan in Hakone from March.
Nissan spokesperson Nick Maxfield told Reuters the self-parking slippers are supposed to “raise awareness of automated driving technologies, and their potential, non-driving applications,” and so will probably not be appearing at ryokans across Japan anytime soon.
The company’s ProPilot Park technology was introduced with the all-new electric Leaf in Japan in October 2017. Using sensors and cameras, it detects surrounding objects and, with a push of a button, lets drivers automatically park their vehicle in a selected parking space. Nissan’s ProPilot technology also includes an “assist” feature that can help the driver with acceleration, steering, and braking under particular conditions on a highway. It debuted in the U.S. with the Rogue in 2017.
In another effort to boost the technology’s profile, Nissan created the Intelligent Parking Chair in 2016. If you’d like to see a bunch of office chairs parking themselves, then do take a moment to check out the video.