Friday, September 26, 2008

Nissan announces RB23C - Crash avoidance robotic car inspired by flight of the Bumblebee

Nissan - BR23C Robot Car

TOKYO : September 26, 2008 - At Nissan Exhibits for CEATEC Japan 2008, Nissan announces crash avoidance robotic car, that Inspired by flight of the bumblebee. What better way to advance the development of crash prevention technology than to mimic some of the best proponents of collision avoidance in the natural world® Bees.

In a surprising project that will be unveiled at CEATEC, the humble bumblebee has given engineers at Nissan Motor Co.'s Advanced Technology Center a strategic hint at how to design the next generation of crash-avoidance systems.

Based on joint research with the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at Japan's prestigious University of Tokyo, Nissan has built the Biomimetic Car Robot Drive, or BR23C. It is a robotic micro-car that recreates bee characteristics with the goal of producing a system that prevents collisions altogether.

Nissan - BR23C Robot Car

BR23C is one of many new safety technologies that Nissan is working as part of its 'Safety Shield' concept -- an advanced, proactive approach to safety issues based on the idea that cars should help protect people. The approach classifies driving risks and accidents into six stages. It is Nissan's goal to halve the number of automobile accident fatalities or serious injuries involving its vehicles by 2015 compared to 1995.

"The BR23C robotic car is positioned as the inner-most layer of this shield. We are expecting that this robotic car will support the development of future collision-avoidance technologies," said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Executive Vice President in charge of research and development.

SAFETY SHIELD - Nissan's concept of the vehicle that helps protect people

In flight, each bee creates its own oval-shaped personal space which in fact closely resembles Nissan's Safety Shield concept.

But more crucially, it is the bee's compound eyes, capable of seeing more than 300-degrees that allows the bumblebee to fly uninterrupted inside its personal space. In order to recreate the function of a compound eye, engineers came up with the idea of a Laser Range Finder (LRF).

The LRF detects obstacles up to two meters away within a 180-degree radius in front of the BR23C, calculates the distance to them, and sends a signal to an on-board microprocessor, which is instantly translated into collision avoidance.

Bee's compound eyes and detection of obstacle by LRF-technology

"The split second it detects an obstacle, the car robot will mimic the movements of a bee and instantly change direction by turning its wheels at right angles or greater to avoid a collision," explained Toshiyuki Andou, Manager of Nissan's Mobility Laboratory and principal engineer of the robot car project.

"The biggest difference to any current system is that the avoidance maneuver is totally instinctive. If that was not so, then the car robot would not be able to react fast enough to avoid obstacles," Andou said.

"It must react instinctively and instantly because this technology corresponds to the most vulnerable and inner-most layer of our Safety Shield, a layer in which a crash is currently considered unavoidable," he added. "The whole process must mirror what a bee does to avoid other bees. It must happen within the blink of an eye."

But unlike a bee, it cannot deviate upwards or downwards or diagonally, only in two dimensions and only in the direction that the wheels can turn.

"So in place of the infinite number of ways a bumblebee can avoid other bees, we have employed a rotation function, in addition to acceleration and deceleration as our car robot's means of collision avoidance," Andou said.

Andou tells us that its instincts are intelligent, not its ability to process or even store data.

The robot avoids crashing by decellerating and rotating

"This device only needs to process inputs every few seconds, and act on that," he said. "It does not require a huge central processing unit to run complicated programs or a large memory to store enormous data from previous maneuvers.It can operate continuously using an extremely simple microprocessor."

This research might have only just begun with the biomimetic car robot, but this bee-inspired technology has taken the next big step in creating technologies that may help one day lead to a collision-free future.

[Source : NISSAN]


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