The Nissan Motor Co has introduced Intelligent Vehicle Towing (IVT), a fully automated vehicle towing system, at its Oppama Plant in Japan.
The IVT system uses a modified Nissan LEAF to autonomously tow trailers carrying finished vehicles between designated loading and unloading points at the plant. Unlike conventional automatic guided vehicle systems for transporting parts, which often require the installation of rails or extensive use of magnetic tape, this system does not need any special infrastructure to operate.
The towing car is equipped with an array of cameras and laser scanners that detect lane markings, curbs and potential obstacles or hazards around the vehicle. By cross-referencing this information with map data, the towing car calculates its own location, negotiating the route to its destination unaided. The car automatically stops if it detects an obstacle or hazard ahead, before setting off again when it has determined that the road ahead is clear.
The towing route can easily be altered to accommodate changes in production processes or vehicle transport routes. All driverless towing cars are connected to a central traffic control system, which can monitor the location, driving speed, remaining battery and operational status of each vehicle. When two driverless towing cars meet at an intersection, the control system's algorithm determines which car should be given right-of-way, and in case of emergency, the system can stop the vehicles remotely.