Old traditions are constantly being updated with new technology, and one ryokan (guesthouse) is making use of automated driving technology to offer the latest in hands-free hospitality — self-driving slippers.
Nissan Motor Co. has developed a system for slippers to “park” themselves at the entrance of the traditional inn at the push of a button, ready for guests to use upon arrival.
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 automaker uses the same technology in the latest version of its all-battery electric Leaf vehicle. High-tech sensors and cameras allow the car to locate and back into parking spots without any driver input.
A simplified version of the technology has been installed at the ryokan, which is located in the Mount Fuji-area resort town of Hakone. Selected guests will be able to experience the technology in March.
“The self-parking slippers are meant to raise awareness of automated driving technologies — and their potential, nondriving applications,” said Nissan spokesman Nick Maxfield.
And it is not just the slippers that scurry across the inn’s floors. Tatami-matted guest rooms feature floor cushions and chabudai (traditional low tables) that also wheel themselves into place.
Many of the world’s top auto brands are developing self-driving technology. Nissan plans to market a car that can drive itself on city streets by 2020.