Nissan learns about autonomous driving with car towing

December 06, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Car maker Nissan Motor announced it is using a fully automated vehicle towing system at its Oppama Plant. Dubbed Intelligent Vehicle Towing (IVT), the system relies on mapping and communication technologies to link an intelligent and all-electric car to Nissan's production infrastructure and command it to tow newly produced cars to their dedicated wharf for shipping.

Part of Nissan's Intelligent Mobility vision, the IVT system uses a modified Nissan LEAF to autonomously tow trollies carrying finished vehicles between designated loading and unloading points at the plant.

Unlike conventional automatic guided vehicle systems for transporting parts, which often require the installation of rails or extensive use of magnetic tape, this system does not need any special infrastructure to operate, but instead relies completely on the towing car's autonomous driving capabilities.

The said car is equipped with an array of cameras and laser scanners that detect lane markings, curbs and potential obstacles or hazards around the vehicle.

By cross-referencing this information with map data, the towing car calculates its own location, negotiating the route to its destination unaided, traveling within the speed limits of the factory, and automatically stopping if it detects an obstacle or hazard ahead.

This allows the towing route to be easily altered to accommodate changes in production processes or vehicle transport routes, and using the driverless car is expected to improve production efficiency too.

All driverless towing cars are connected to a central traffic control system, which can monitor the location, driving speed, remaining battery and operational status of each vehicle. When two driverless towing cars meet at an intersection, the control system’s algorithm determines which car should be given right-of-way, and in case of emergency, the system can stop the vehicles remotely.