Cleantech Market Intelligence
At Nissan, Progress Looks Backward
The second generation of the Nissan Note will be launched officially at the Geneva Motor Show this week. B-Class “supermini” vehicles are the biggest segment in the European market, and competition is tough. Styling and technology features get a lot of attention, as well as performance and fuel economy. Ford was the first to introduce advanced safety systems to this segment with its 2013 Focus model, offering features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and automatic emergency braking.
One of the new options on the updated Note is the Nissan Safety Shield package, which is composed of lane departure warning, blind spot warning, and advanced moving object detection. While Ford uses the increasingly popular forward-looking camera along with the latest low-cost radar sensors, Nissan has chosen to implement a similar suite of functions via a camera that faces to the rear. The camera also contributes to the Around View Monitor feature that gives the driver a bird’s eye view of the car as it is being reversed, thanks to additional cameras at the front and sides.
Warning: Obstacles Ahead
What makes the Nissan system significant is that the rear-looking camera is not simply a passive sensor projecting an image on the screen for the driver to look at but an active monitor that warns the driver if something is not right. When reversing, a warning beep will sound if an object is detected in the path of the vehicle, thanks to the rapid analysis of the images many times per second. The same technology is used to monitor the blind spot on either side when the car is traveling forward. The camera can also track the lane markings to alert the driver of inadvertent drift. The camera itself has a convex lens that gives it a vision sweep of a little over 180 degrees, and because of its importance to the safety systems it has an automatic cleaning system built in.
The Note’s Around View system confirms that advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are now available on mass market vehicles. It was only a few years ago that such features were offered only on the most expensive luxury models. It also demonstrates that camera technology and the analysis software has advanced to the point where it can replace the more expensive radar sensors in safety systems, thus accelerating the adoption of similar functionality across all vehicles in the near future.
Widespread availability of ADASs on the majority of vehicles is an important stepping stone toward intelligent transportation systems and autonomous driving. Well-tested software and sensors are critical to more automated driving, and once individual cars are more aware of their surroundings the value of linking them via wireless communications to share data about traffic and potential incidents also goes up. Pike Research will be taking a closer look at this technology later in 2013.