Guests at a Japanese inn in Hakone were shocked when they removed their hotel-provided slippers only to watch them roll away and self-park in a neat row. Later, taking a seat at the traditional low tables known as chabudai, floor cushions wheel themselves into place automatically to the surprise and delight of onlookers. It’s all part of ‘ProPILOT Park Ryokan,’ a temporary experience engineered for the hotel by Nissan to promote its self-parking vehicle technology.
Obviously, there’s a big difference between a wooden slipper on a lobby floor and a full-scale vehicle, but Nissan says it uses essentially the same sensors and algorithms for both. Do we really need our slippers to scoot into a perfect line? Are we not capable of putting them there ourselves, and parking our own vehicles, too? Sure. But you have to admit, this is way more fun (and imagine how many bad parking jobs it could avoid.)
The self-parking feature is available in the latest version of Nissan’s all-electric Leaf vehicle, which uses both sensors and a rear camera to ease itself into a spot without driver input at the push of a button. The idea, according to the carmaker, is to “liberate drivers from one of the most tedious, and at times the most challenging, tasks of driving” so you can “park perfectly.” It’s all part of a three-stage ramp up to get us all accustomed to autonomous driving, with fully driverless vehicles expected in 2020.
Of course, the slippers bring to mind existing household technology like robot vacuums, too. Doesn’t it make you wonder whether we’re in for a future in which all of our possessions know where they belong, and automatically revert to them when not in use?