How Nissan's Eporo Robot Car Came to Be

Oct. 14, 2009
Nissan again looks to nature to help solve driving challenges.

Last year bumblebees inspired Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s robot car concepts. This year it's fish.

The Japanese automotive manufacturer debuted its Eporo robot car concept in October at Ceatec Japan, an annual exhibition showcasing electronic and information technologies. The Eporo robot car, explains Nissan, is designed to travel in a group of like-vehicles, "mimicking the behavioral patterns of a school of fish in avoiding obstacles without colliding with each other."

While bees and fish share a common capability in collision avoidance, Nissan notes that the schooling behavior of fish presents a much greater challenge. In developing its latest robot car concept, engineers applied three rules of fish behavior: changing direction without colliding, traveling side by side and maintaining a certain distance and speed, and gaining on others at a distance.

"We, in a motorized world, have a lot to learn from the behavior of a school of fish in terms of each fish's degree of freedom and safety within a school and high migration efficiency of a school itself. In Eporo, we recreated the behavior of a school of fish making full use of cutting-edge electronic technologies," says Toshiyuki Andou, manager of Nissan's Mobility Laboratory and principal engineer of the robot car project. "By sharing the surrounding information received within the group via communication, the group of Eporos can travel safely, changing its shape as needed."

Lessons learned from this robot car concept may one day find their way into Nissan's automotive safety systems.

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About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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