How Nissan Kept Me From Running Over A Guy

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
how nissan kept me from running over a guy

I am sitting next to a man in a Nissan Leaf. The man tries to run over pedestrians. If you think that’s mean, then the three black clad guys who are hiding behind a row of parked cars will disgust you. Their job is to push a pedestrian in front of an oncoming car.

We drive down the road. Suddenly, a man appears behind some parked cars. He crosses the road in front of us. In a few heartbeats, he will be dead. My driver keeps his foot on the gas, takes his hands off the wheel. He grins.

I brace for impact, for blood and guts. But someone intervenes. Something intervenes. The LEAF brakes, then steers past the pedestrian. All with the grinning driver’s hands off the wheel.

This is part of a demonstration of safety technology under development at Nissan. We are on their test course in Oppama, Japan, near Yokohama. The LEAF has instrumentation like a fighter jet. Multiple screens, interfaced to an array of sensors, millimeter RADAR, laser scanners, cameras. The job of the computer is to detect an obstacle, and to decide whether the car can be braked in time, or whether it should be steered around the obstacle.

They call it “Autonomous Emergency Steering System.” A computer processes the inputs of a camera, of three RADAR sensors and five laser scanners. If it senses the risk of a collision, it displays to the driver the direction that the vehicle should be steered. If the driver does not immediately steer in that direction, the system takes over and automatically steers the vehicle around the obstacle.

The system is not commercially available yet, but Nissan is working hard on its commercialization. A Nissan engineer tells me that they will have to bring the number of sensors down, and possibly eliminate the laser scanners to make the system more affordable.

While the men that lurk behind the parked car get ready to push another pedestrian in front of a car (luckily, the pedestrian is a dummy, mounted on a long pole that is attached to a pushcart) I am shown other, related technology. One is steering by wire.

Instead of connecting the steering wheel via a steering column to the wheels, steering inputs are transmitted via electronic signals. Servos do the steering. On a test drive, I notice that driving down a rough road suddenly does no longer punish my wrist – that undesired feedback is taken out of the loop. Welcome cues are transmitted back to the steering wheel via a servo.

I am told that electronic steering is safer. It prevents overcompensation, for instance during crosswinds. .A camera mounted above the rearview mirror allows the system to analyze the road ahead. Lane departure is not only recognized, but gently corrected. This system will first be available in a future Infiniti model.

Currently, it works with belts and suspenders. There are three redundant computers. And there still is a steering column, just in case. Normally, the steering column is out of the game and as useful as an appendix. Should something fail, then a clutch reconnects the steering to the wheel, and you can steer like in the olden days.

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2 of 21 comments
  • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Oct 17, 2012

    Just wait until this hits the streets. Someone hacks into the code and flips a bit from 0 to 1 and it becomes a pedestrian seeking machine.

  • SPPPP SPPPP on Oct 18, 2012

    Humorous thought there. Yet scary. I wonder if anyone remembers the commercial with the two squirrels that kept running out into the road to make drivers wreck? Will it one day become a "fun" activity for angst-ridden teens to scare Nissans into ditches?

  • Bobbysirhan I'm surprised by the particular Porsches to make the list, and also by the Cadillac. Most of all, I'm shocked that the 2-door Mini Cooper is on here. I didn't even know they still made them, let alone that anyone was still buying them.
  • Ajla I assume the CT5 is on the list due to the Blackwing variant.It would be interesting to take the incentives that existed in October 2019 and include that in an analysis like this as well. The thing about the used market is that while you'll pay less in total dollars, in some cases the percentage increase from 2019 is even worse than with new cars. Buying a Saturn Relay for $6k isn't exactly a winning move.
  • VoGhost Reminder: dealers exist to line the pockets of millionaires who contribute to local politicians.
  • Cprescott The pandemic changed the sales game. No longer do dealerships need inventory. After two years people are accustomed to having to order what they want and then extorted on the price by the dealer for that privilege. Now used cars with 75k are selling for $5k more than I paid for my 21k, 2016 model back in January 2019. I pray my car won't get totaled and I have but 13 payments left to make on it. I may never buy another car again.
  • Grein002 I hope you meant "take the Ranger out behind the *barn*" rather than "bar". I think something completely different happens "behind the bar".