Published: Sat, January 07, 2017
Research | By Francis Brooks

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One of the most interesting aspects offered by Nissan: self-driving cars still need humans in the loop.

An actual human (called a mobility manager) in that center will look at vehicle images and sensor data to determine how to handle it, and it will be under the manager's control until the manager leaves it to its own devices, pun intended.

The Nissan CEO's keynote also highlighted artificial intelligence developed from NASA tech, which it calls "Seamless Autonomous Mobility" (SAM), which combines human input with artificial intelligence to bridge the gap between roads populated with only human drivers and fully autonomous traffic.

The tests will be conducted using electric vehicles provided by Nissan and coincide with similar testing already underway in Europe, the United States, and China. Testing of these driverless vehicles will begin this year in designated zones of Japan.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn took center stage at its CES press conference in Las Vegas to detail the company's vision for its electric auto, which was first released in 2010. Once the auto had driven away, the self-driving vehicle would be back in full control.

That's because SAM is based on technology from none other than NASA. "Show me an autonomous system without a person in the loop and I will show you a system that is practically useless", he said.

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SAM is based on NASA's Visual Environment for Remote Virtual Exploration (VERVE) software, which it uses to direct robots who are scouring the surface of celestial bodies in our solar system, such as the Curiosity rover that's now on Mars. The technology that will be at the center of this test is Nissan's ProPILOT system, which made its debut in Japanese models of the Serena. The first stage is autonomous drive for single-lanes on the highway, which helps keep the auto centered by reading lane markers, measuring the distance with the vehicle in front, and providing steering assistance. These are the unique and challenging situations that a driver might encounter only once or twice in a year, making it hard for a robot auto to prepare for.

In addition, Nissan is also working towards the advancement of the upcoming LEAF electric auto.

As vehicles become more adept at driving themselves, in-vehicle personal assistants are also something many automakers are talking about.

Nissan will continue to develop its partnership with Microsoft with the goal of launching new connected services and applications.

Nissan is partnering with 100 Resilient Cities, a global nonprofit that helps cities build resilience to physical, social, and economic challenges.

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