Earlier this week, Nissan announced it was opening a new R&D facility in Silicon Valley to develop technologies related to autonomous driving. In a video Nissan distributed, there were these robot penguin/Furbies things called Eporos. While they looked like toys, their design is far from child’s play.
Developed in 2009 by engineer Susumu Fujita, the Eporo is able to move autonomously, but uniformly, in an environment with other moving Eporos. It can detect obstacles and avoid them, and follow traffic patterns without hesitation. Fujita says their patterns were inspired by schools of fish that can swim among one another but never touch.
Nissan has seven Eporo robots and hopes to use the philosophy behind their operation to fuel autonomous car development. Already some of these “Safety Shield” technologies used in the Eporo have helped shape Nissan’s collision-avoidance suite seen in some of its higher-end cars and utility vehicles.