Nissan Robot Flight of the Bumblebee
Brought to you by turbogeeks from Nissan and the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at Japan's prestigious University of Tokyo, the Biomimetic Car Robot Drive ("BR23C" for short) gives engineers at Nissan Co's Advanced Technology Center a "strategic hint at how to design the next generation of crash-avoidance systems." BR23C is part of Nissan's Safety Shield initiative, in which the company intends to halve fatalities or serious injuries involving its cars from the period 1995 to 2015.
According to the exhaustive research, every bumblebee creates its own ovular personal space in which it can fly without incident while also allowing quick exit strategies should danger suddenly loom. A bee's compound eyes that allow a field of vision some 300 degrees are a huge aid in accident avoidance, and Nissan engineers have tried to re-create this remarkable field of vision using an LRF (Laser Range Finder), which "detects obstacles up to two meters away within a 180-degree radius in front of the BR23C, calculates the distance to them, and sends a signal to an on-board microprocessor, which is instantly translated into collision avoidance."
Unlike a bee, BR23C can only avoid collisions in a flat plane, turning right or left depending upon the more advantageous direction for accident avoidance.
We'd like to see some grasshopper jumping capability designed into BR23C version 2.0, at which point the option to launch completely over and in front of slow, confused bluehairs would become a very real possibility.--Colin Mathews