Automotive research and development teams have been experimenting with a wide range of different tools in order to produce the ultimate vehicle. While some turn to the past to rouse their creative spirit, the department at Nissan has gone into a new area entirely, taking inspiration from the animal kingdom. The results of the experiment are a very unique set of tools aimed at making a safer and more efficient driving environment, ultimately producing a driving experience with virtually zero fatalities and serious injuries.
Toru Futami, Engineering Director of Advanced Technology and Research, recently said that: “In our ongoing quest to develop collision-avoidance systems for the next generation of automobiles, we needed to look no further than to Mother Nature to find the ultimate form of collision-avoidance systems in action, in particular, the behavioural patterns of fish."
As a result of this they created EPORO which stands for Episode 0 Robot. The robot utilises Laser Range Finger (LRF) technology that was inspired by bumblebee eyes, allowing it to see in more than 300-degrees-along. Six of these units communicate among themselves in order to avoid collision, travelling side-by-side or in single file; much like fish would swimming in schools. These EPORO robots communicate at intersections, deciding on when to stop, thus making traffic lights a feature of the past.
Toru Futami added that: "In current traffic laws, cars are supposed to drive within the lanes and come to a halt at stop signals, but if all cars were autonomous, the need for lanes and even signals could be gone. We talked about fishes earlier, and fish follow these three rules: Don't go away too far, don't get too close and don't hit each other. Fish form schools with these three rules. A school of fish doesn't have lines to help guide the fishes, but they manage to swim extremely close to each other. So if cars can perform the same type of thing within a group and move accordingly, we should be able to have more cars operate with the same width roads. This would lead to more cars, but with less traffic congestion.”
These new innovations have come out of Nissans Biometric Car Robot Drive, or BR23C, which mimics the bumblebee ability to avoid collisions. The project was a joint venture with the Research centre for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo in Japan, producing achievements that have the ability to save lives.