One of the many benefits of autonomous cars is that they don’t actually need a person to go from place to place. Sure they don’t need you as a driver, but if you want to move something from point A to point B, they don’t need you as a passenger either. Nissan is taking advantage of that to let an autonomous Leaf tow other Nissan cars around their plant instead of driving them.
Automatic guided vehicles have been around in large plants, factories, and warehouses for many years, but previously they needed tracks, wires, rails, or other systems that they had to follow. The autonomous Leaf doesn’t need that, so it can go anywhere inside Nissan’s Oppama plant or on the grounds of the facility.
The driverless towing cars are online now at Nissan’s Oppama plant. They are used to towing trains of completed vehicles from final assembly to a staging area and can move just about anything around the plant. While you wouldn’t think of an electric Leaf as the ideal tow vehicle, the low speeds involved and the instant torque of an electric motor mean that it does just fine in this role. The project has seen more than 1,600 trial runs made so far, and so Nissan is now going larger scale. The automaker will continue to test the system and may implement it in other facilities.
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