Nissan's Self-Parking Leaf

Nissan is showing a modified Leaf able to do “valet” park in a controlled parking lot. The leaf downloads a map of the lot, and then, according to Nissan engineers, is able to determine its position in the lot with 4 cameras, then hunt for a spot and go into it. We’ve seen valet park demonstrations before, but calculating position entirely with cameras is somewhat new, mainly because of the issues with how lighting conditions vary. In an indoor parking garage it’s a different story, and camera based localization under the constant lighting should be quite doable.

This other video from Engadget with a more detailed demo shows the view from the car’s cameras, which appear to be on the side mirrors as well as front and back for a synthetic 360 degree view. They also have an Android app for control and the ability to view through the cameras. Alas, chances are low you would get that bandwidth in the parking garage, but it’s a cool demo.

There was a huge raft of press coverage after last week’s signing of the California law. This ranged from polls showing strong acceptance of the tech to editorial critiques about the law being too fanciful or the technology taking jobs. (It is true that there will be job displacement, but at the same time, Americans spend about 50 billion hours driving which is a much larger sink on the GDP.)

Hard to get real excited

Hard to get real excited about this when we're promised a Google care in 5 years or less...

I know these kind of things are important though, to get people ready for the idea of robocars.

And also important in case Google's car ends up being delayed another 5+ years, then these technologies will fill a gap.

What's interesting about this Leaf

Is not that it can park. We’ve seen cars park themselves before, including concept cars and Junior 3 from Stanford. It’s that it does it with cheap sensors, namely the 4 cameras. While it’s an entirely different question as to whether full driving can be done with just cameras, paths along the way that use cheap sensors are interesting.

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