February 22, 2005

Advanced Nissan lane-warning and video systems test-driven in Japan

Yokosura, Japan – A car that swerves back into its own lane and a video system to make parking easier were part of a display presented by Nissan Motor Company.

Reporters at a research centre outside Tokyo test-drove vehicles equipped with the new technology on Monday. Similar “smart-car” features are also in the works at other companies, including Toyota, Honda and General Motors.

One of the features shown at the presentation was a more sophisticated version of an existing warning system, already available on some Nissan vehicles in North America and Japan, that buzzes when a car veers out of its lane. The new system, called Lane Departure Prevention, uses a camera and computers to control front and rear wheel brakes, nudging the car in the right direction. The system turns off when the turn signal is activated, so that lane changes and turns can be made without the system overriding.

No decision has been made when the system will be available to the public. Research centre general manager Takao Kubozuka said the problem with such features is making sure the driver doesn’t rely on them too much. “We have to strike the balance between making driving safe, and letting people get away with no-hands driving,” he said.

Nissan also presented its Around View Monitor, which uses four cameras in front, back and side-mirrors, and a dashboard display, to show what’s around the car in live video. Images from all sides are shown the way they appear from above, with the vehicle displayed as a computer graphic in the middle of the screen. While video monitors have been available on vehicles for some time, Nissan’s system is the first to put the images together to create the aerial view.

There is also no release date on the monitor system, although Kubozuka said it will probably be more popular in Japan, where streets and parking spaces are narrower than in the United States.

Other technologies shown at the event included a hydrogen fuel-cell stack, and a computerized system that controls the front and rear wheels to stabilize driving when a car switches directions quickly.

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