As far as clever marketing ideas go, self-driving slippers must rank among the top. In an effort to showcase their semi-autonomous driving technology, Nissan took it a step further and developed autonomous footwear. The self-driving slippers function in a similar way to Nissan’s battery-powered electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf which won Best Innovation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
A traditional Japanese guest house approximately 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Tokyo will be host to the self-driving slippers when they plan to open in March 2018. It is located in the resort town of Hakone and famous for its breathtaking views of Mount Fuji.
If self-driving slippers weren’t enough, Nissan also integrated the system with the hotel’s tables and floor pillows. Each slipper is equipped with two tiny wheels, a small motor and sensors to “drive” across the lobby floor and “park” in a designated space using Nissan’s ProPilot Park technology. The guest house appears to be a traditional Japanese inn, or Ryokan, with slippers neatly lined up in the foyer and Tatami rooms furnished with low tables and floor cushions for sitting. However, looks are deceiving as for the first time ever, guests are welcomed by autonomous footwear and furniture moving across the floor with a push of a single button.
According to a Nissan spokesperson, “the goal was to entertain guests and reduce staff workload” but it’s also geared toward promoting the all-electric, semi-autonomous Nissan Leaf released late last year. Nissan added that the self-driving slippers are intended to raise awareness of the advancements in automated driving technologies along with its tremendous potential with non-driving applications.
Many of the world’s top automakers are in the process of developing self-driving technology with Nissan leading from the front. They’ve also developed technology that allows vehicles to read the brain activity of drivers that initiates movement in response. Although some may feel that Nissan’s plans to market a completely autonomous car by 2020 are ambitious, they have made considerable progress and are certainly on the right track.
The Leaf is the first Nissan to use the ProPilot driver assistance technology that will allow them to be completely autonomous in the ‘not-so-distant’ future. For now though, it’s primarily a device that keeps you in your lane and works with the adaptive cruise control to maintain a safe, comfortable distance from the car front of you.
As for the self-driving slippers, no-one has confirmed or denied whether they work while being worn. If they do, it could present a number of interesting applications resembling the roller shoes kids wear albeit a more advanced robotic version.