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Nissan Develops Self-Steering Golf Ball for ‘Stress-Free’ Perfect Putts

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Nissan is finding new uses for its ProPilot Assist self-driving technology. Right nows, it’s ramping up for the September debut of the Nissan Skyline, the Skyline being, effectively, the Infiniti Q50 in the US. And so Nissan-Infiniti developed the ProPilot golf ball with self-guiding technology embedded. Seriously. On the green, you putt the ball more or less in the direction of the hole, and it finds the way.

The intelligent golf ball also makes use of a camera in a drone overhead that tracks the ball’s progress and issues corrections to an internal motor that can change the ball’s path of progress. Cars don’t have drones to track their progress, but they do have cameras in the car, sometimes also radar, lidar, and sonar, to make sure the car stays on-course and reacts to potential hazards.

Innards of Nissan’s ProPilot golf ball. Try not to lose it in a water hazard.

Nissan explains ProPilot and the ProPilot golf ball this way:

Similar to the Skyline’s ProPilot 2.0 advanced technology, the ProPilot golf ball supports golfers by following a predefined route to its goal. Players can feel confident that they will reach their target effortlessly on each putt. Using technology influenced by Nissan Intelligent Mobility – the company’s vision for how cars are powered, driven and integrated into society – the ball navigates its way across the green and into the cup on the first putt, providing a stress-free golf experience.

An overhead camera detects the position of the ball and cup. When the ball is hit, a monitoring system calculates the correct route based on the ball’s movement and adjusts its trajectory. Combining sensing technology with an internal electric motor, the ProPilot golf ball stays on route until reaching the cup – making even novice golfers, of all ages, feel like pros.

Imagine what the Nissan golf ball could have done for Rodney Dangerfield’s game in Caddyshack (1980), still one of the finest sports movies ever. Also, the source of one of the finest pieces bits of golf advice, from Al Czervik (Dangerfield) to a slow-playing partner: “Let’s go — while we’re young.” (Photo: Warner Home Video)

Nissan’s ProPilot 2.0 driver assistance technology will be part of the Skyline. Nissan says ProPilot 2.0 is “designed for on-ramp to off-ramp (ramp-to-ramp) highway driving … [and] engages with the vehicle’s navigation system to help maneuver the car according to a predefined route on designated roadways. The system is the first in the world to combine this with hands-off driving capability while cruising in a single lane.”

This would put the Skyline at the high end of Level 2 autonomy, which other automakers have reached as well: Audi Traffic Jam Assist, BMW Personal CoPilot, Cadillac Super Cruise, Ford CoPilot Assist+, Tesla Autopilot, and Volvo Pilot Assist, among others. The next step, Level 3, allows hands-off driving and the car, not the driver, is responsible for monitoring the world around him or her. But the driver must be able to take over on short notice. It’s not clear if Nissan will target Level 2 or Level 3 driving.

Some say the path to full autonomy (any time, any place, any weather) may skip Level 3. The difference between L3 and L4 is that L3 requires the driver to resume driving on short notice, short notice not being clear as to whether that’s in two seconds or half a minute.

Here’s a Nissan video of a four-year-old making short work of the green with the Nissan ProPilot ball.

Inspiration comes from many sources, and vice-versa. The NASA space program of the 1960s made the Tang artificially flavored orange drink a household name. Now Nissan is finding new uses for its Intelligent Mobility self-driving and self-parking, including the self-correcting golf ball. Combine the two and you have an Apollo 14 astronaut hitting a golf ball a mile, more or less, on the reduced-gravity, zero-wind-resistance Moon in 1971.

Nissan has found other uses for its vision and driver-assistance systems including the Intelligent Parking Chair, in the video below. Now all we need is a robot that picks up the juice bottles, coffee cups, and pizza boxes after a staff lunch.

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