Autonomous Cars, high tech, Motoring News, vehicle technology

Towers of strength: Nissan plant goes autonomous

  • Leaf trailer-tractors turn over new system
  • Humans redundant as auto tow-cars hitch-up
  • System could go global – more lost jobs
WORLD'S MOST HIGH-TECH TOW-CAR? One of the Nissan Leaf autonomous electric cars in action. Image:Nissan Japan
WORLD’S MOST HIGH-TECH TOW-CAR? One of the Nissan Leaf autonomous electric cars in action. Image:Nissan Japan

YOKOHAMA, Japan – Nissan has introduced Intelligent Vehicle Towing, an autonomous and fully automated vehicle towing system, at its Oppama manufacturing plant.

Nissan has worked on making the relationship between people, cars and society more exciting under its Intelligent Mobility vision, a framework for how cars will be driven, powered, and integrated into society.

“This new project which uses mapping and communication technologies to link an intelligent and all-electric car to infrastructure,” Nissan says, “is a step towards the realisation of Nissan Intelligent Integration.”


IVT uses a modified Nissan Leaf electric car to tow trollies, autonomously, that carry finished vehicles between designated loading and unloading points at the plant. Nissan explained:

“Unlike conventional automatic guided-vehicle systems for transporting parts, which often require rails or extensive use of magnetic tape, this system does not need any special infrastructure to operate.

“The towing car has an array of cameras and laser scanners that detect lane markings, kerbs and obstacles or hazards. By cross-referencing this information with map data the tow-car calculates its own location, negotiating the route to its destination unaided.

“The tow-car travels within the speed limits of the factory and will stops if it detects an obstacle then set off again when it has determined that the way ahead is clear.”


The towing route can 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.

AUTONOMOUS TOWER OF STRENGTH AT WORK: One of the Nissan Leaf autonomous electric cars hooked to trollies being moved around a plant in Japan. Image: Nissan Japan
AUTONOMOUS TOWER OF STRENGTH AT WORK: One of the Nissan Leaf autonomous electric cars hooked to trolleysbeing moved around the Oppama plant in Japan. Image: Nissan Japan

If two driverless towing cars meet at an intersection the control system’s algorithm determines which car should be given right of way. If there is an emergency the system can immobilise the vehicles.

READ MORE Nissan features on Carman’s Corner

The Oppama plant’s logistics require complete vehicles to be moved from the end of the production line to the facility’s dedicated harbour wharf by a team of drivers, at which point they are loaded onto ships.

IVT, Nissan adds, will allow Nissan to improve production efficiency. (And, presumably, cost humans their job. – Editor)


Since testing began roughly a year earlier more than 1600 test runs have been carried out at the plant. The data acquired has been used to make suret the system can operate reliably though safety and fail-safe systems have been developed to counter risks or unexpected conditions the IVT system may face during autonomous driving – bad weather or low light, perhaps.

Nissan will continue to test the system at its Oppama Plant to examine the possibility of implementation at other plants worldwide.

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