Some car companies do a lot more than design more fuel-efficient vehicles in their quest to buff up their green credentials. While Nissan is working on the vehicle side of things with the "Green Program 2010," the company is also offering "CarWings," a way for drivers to track their driving habits (see links below). Moving beyond the vehicles themselves, Nissan announced today it is beginning the next text phase of its intelligent transportation system (ITS) project, which coordinates signals between vehicles and traffic lights. The intended results: reduce accidents, increase safety for pedestrians, and lighten traffic congestion to reduce fuel consumption.

The testing is taking place at Nissan's Technical Center in the Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, using vehicle data from several hundred employee cars. The ITS project began last October. Thankfully, ITS doesn't require any modification to the vehicles. Instead, it uses optical beacons on the side of the road to determine vehicle traffic and optimize signal times. ITS gives pedestrians the right of way each time, but tries to make the vehicle signals turn green upon a vehicle's approach. Some employee vehicles will be equipped with Vehicle Information and Communications System units to communicate specific information to the sensors and receive information on upcoming conditions. Details on ITS are available after the break.

I remember once hearing that some scientists enjoy studying traffic flow because vehicles are like "particles with intention" (I think that was the phrase). Trying to get a computer system to coordinate all of the possible "particles" on a road - cars, trucks, pedestrians, as well as bikes and construction, etc. - is a daunting task. If the ITS or a similar system become widespread, perhaps we'll need a new button to announce way in advance our turning preferences, or we'll see our GPS/directions units tell the ITS system where, exactly, we're headed - not only so the system can predict our turns but also to receive information on how to best reach our destination. I certainly don't envy the engineers who are facing this challenge, but I'm excited to see where it leads.

[Source: Nissan Europe]
Nissan Advances Testing of Intelligent Transportation System

TOKYO, March 13/PRNewswire/ --

- Innovative Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Communication System to Help Reduce Traffic Accidents and Improve Pedestrian Safety

Nissan Motors Co., Ltd. announced today that it will begin the next test-phase of its intelligent transportation system (ITS) project, employing vehicle-to-infrastructure communication that allows synchronized communication between vehicles and traffic light signals. Nissan will invest in the installation of an advanced traffic signal infrastructure within the site of the Nissan Technical Center, located in the Kanagawa Prefecture(1), to collect real-world vehicle data from several hundred employee cars participating in the project.

The new advanced traffic system will help reduce accidents as well as ease traffic congestion - specifically at traffic light intersections - leading to improved on-the-road fuel consumption. Since October 2006, Nissan has been conducting various experiments under its ITS Project in Kanagawa to help reduce accidents and ease traffic congestion.

The test-phase conducted within Nissan's premises is representative of real-world traffic conditions, where relevant data from vehicles can be collected and analyzed under a closely-monitored environment. The vehicle-data input and corresponding traffic-signal output from the intersections is computed by an advanced traffic light system specifically installed for the test program.

Two intersecting main roads, one running east-west for two kilometers and the other running north-south for one kilometer, each with multiple intersections and crosswalks, provide the basic parameters for the ITS experiment. Nissan has installed standard traffic lights and roadside optical beacons along these test-roads. Traffic data can be collected from the employee cars and shuttle buses without any on-board vehicle-modification. However, for specific data to support the development of the navigation program under testing, several hundreds employee cars will be equipped with the Vehicle Information and Communications System units.

1) Help reduce pedestrian accidents: Traffic signals place priority on crossing pedestrians

Based on the traffic-volume conditions, the system will calculate to optimize the timing lapse between crossing pedestrians and the change in traffic-signal. At times, pedestrians tend to ignore prohibitive red traffic signals at road-crossings when they do not observe any vehicles within sight, which is a common cause of accidents. The current test program will contribute to Nissan's research findings on ways to avoid such accidents.

In principle, when traffic conditions are lighter in the daytime, the pedestrian signal remains on green while the driver signal is maintained on red. When a vehicle approaches and stops at the light, the vehicle-system communicates with the traffic light beacon, which then allows the signal to switch to green. This system emphasizes the safety of the pedestrians by ensuring the pedestrian has the right-of-way each time.

When a driver slows down accordingly on approaching an intersection, the system again synchronizes the timing of the green signal with the approaching vehicle to minimize the need for repeated stops and acceleration, thus improving on-the-road fuel consumption under city-driving conditions. The test program will also include a virtual school zone(2), which will appear as a warning alert to speeding vehicles on its on-board navigation display.

2) Help reduce collisions due to traffic-signal oversights: Have traffic-signal alerts on-board vehicles

The traffic-signal alert system automatically appears on the navigation display as a vehicle enters within a specified distance to an approaching traffic light. This alert system is already being tested on public roads under the ITS project in Kanagawa. The advanced test-phase at the Nissan Technical Center will further study the effectiveness of the alert system related to specific factors such as Human-Machine Interface (HMI). To help minimize accidents due to traffic-signal oversights, Nissan is testing the possibility of providing higher levels of alert, control, and even intervention when a driver fails to respond to the traffic-signal alert.

3) Reduce congestion caused by red traffic signals and right-turn queues

Traffic congestion is often caused by red traffic signals and vehicles queuing to take a right turn from one lane streets. Nissan is developing its ITS system to optimize the timing intervals between changing traffic signals to correspond with real-time traffic volume and flow in order to ease traffic congestion. The advanced system is able to detect and respond to right-turning vehicles, thus reducing the queuing time and improve traffic flow at intersections. Current research is moving forward on methods to synchronize groups of traffic signals to facilitate smooth traffic flow over a wider scope of traffic conditions.

This next phase of Nissan's ITS research aims to optimize communication between vehicles and traffic signals to create an advanced traffic system where traffic signals operate in tandem with the vehicle-data input according to varying traffic conditions. Nissan hopes to help reduce traffic accidents and road congestion. Looking ahead, the company will continue working closely with the relevant government agencies in bringing the current experiment onto public roads under the existing ITS project in Kanagawa.

Under the Nissan Green Program 2010, announced in December 2006, Nissan is working to develop new technologies to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from its vehicle line-up and global operating facilities. The ITS project in Kanagawa contributes to the NGP 2010 objectives by reducing traffic congestion and vehicle CO2 emissions through improved on-the-road fuel consumption.


1: The Nissan Technical Center (Okatsukoku, Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture) is Nissan's primary center for research and development, developing products and production technology.

2: The virtual school zone will be set up in an area where the March Land, an employee day-care center's playground is located.

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