As marketing gimmicks go, I’ll take self-driving slippers over flamethrowers any day. Nissan recently developed a system for slippers to “park” themselves at the entrance of a traditional Japanese inn at the push of a button, in a bid to both delight travelers and market its semi-autonomous ProPilot driving technology.
Each slipper is equipped with two tiny wheels, a motor, and sensors to “drive” across the wooden lobby floor using Nissan’s ProPilot Park technology. The car giant also built the system into the hotel’s tables and floor pillows, so guests are treated to the not-at-all-creepy sight of autonomous footwear and furniture scuttling across the floor. No word on whether they work while being worn (I doubt it), and if so whether they would operate like some advance, robotic version of those roller shoes kids used to wear.
The ProPILOT Park Ryokan is located in the resort town of Hakone, around 50 miles southwest of Tokyo and famed for its view of Mount Fuji. At first glance, it looks like any other traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan. Slippers are neatly lined up at the foyer, where guests remove their shoes. Tatami rooms are furnished with low tables and floor cushions for sitting.
Nissan says the goal was “to entertain guests and reduce staff workload,” but it mostly seems geared toward selling the all-electric, semi-autonomous Nissan Leaf — the 2018 version of which was released late last year. “The self-parking slippers are meant to raise awareness of automated driving technologies, and their potential, non-driving applications,” a Nissan spokesman told Reuters.
The Leaf is the first Nissan to get the ProPilot driver assistance technology that will, one day, allow Nissans to be self-driving. For now, it’s primarily a device that keeps you in your lane and works with the adaptive cruise control to maintain a comfortable distance from the car in front of you.
While we wait for the cars to drive themselves, we can watch our slippers and pillows move about on their own.
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