As we’ve covered recently, Google has been working on cars that drive themselves for some time now.
The latest car maker to go down this path is Nissan, who have shown their ‘self drive’ Leaf concept car at the CEATEC show in Japan. Unlike Google’s test cars that drive themselves on the open road, the Nissan concept car drives itself only in the car park, with technology built in to take the hassle out of finding and then parking in a spot.
The technology, which in the concept car is a boot full of computer equipment (in the final production model this will be built in), connects via the internet to the Nissan data centre, checks the car’s ‘health’ and then, if everything is good, switches on automatic driving mode. Rather than use GPS, the car uses four HD cameras on the car to determine its position. It then looks for a space, and when it finds one, parks. Nissan are aiming to release a production version in 2015.
At the same time self-driving cars are being developed, a company called Better Place is busy rolling out a network of charging centres across Australia for next generation electric cars. Better Place has recently struck a deal with hotel group InterContinental to site charging stations in their hotels. InterContinental have equipped their Crowne Plaza hotels in Coogee Beach, Terrigal and Hunter Valley and Holiday Inns at Sydney airport and in the city (Old Sydney in The Rocks) with the charging points.
Although the number of electric cars in Australia is only ‘in the hundreds’ according to a Better Place spokesman, the company is gearing up to meet future demand, already having 120 charge points in place.
GM Holden are also reported to be planning to produce all electric Commodores and Caprices at their Adelaide plant, with an initial run of 120 vehicles. The Federal Government is backing the move to electric vehicles with its $100M Smart Grid, Smart City initiative. Better Place itself is part of a larger grouping called EV Engineering which is focused on producing electric cars. Other member companies include GE Capital’s Custom Fleet and parts manufacturer Bosch.