Nissan’s self-driving chair brings autonomous tech to the masses


    Nissan just invented a self-driving chair you sit in while you wait in line. It could be the coolest application of self-driving technology ever invented or it could be a totally unabashed appeal to the laziest bones in our bodies. Either way, Nissan just came up with a great marketing tactic for making autonomous driving technology more likeable in the public’s eye.

    The ProPilot chair drives itself along a predetermined path so you can have a seat and relax while you wait for the next open table at your favorite restaurant. Each chair is equipped with cameras that detect distance from the chair in front of it so that when one chair moves, the next one will follow at a fixed distance. Once the passenger reaches the front of the line and stands up, the chair will sense the change in weight and move to the back of the line.


    The sensors on the ProPilot chair work the same way as the semi-autonomous technology that comes equipped on Nissan’s Serena minivan. This is Nissan’s not so sneaky way of warming consumers to the idea of using this technology.

    “The ProPILOT Chair appeals to anyone who has queued for hours outside a crowded restaurant: it eliminates the tedium and physical strain of standing in line,” Nissan stated in a blog post. “The same user-friendly philosophy underpins Nissan’s ProPILOT autonomous driving technology, which was designed to ease driver workload by assisting with the most tiring and repetitive aspects of driving in heavy highway traffic.”

    What Nissan probably picked up on is that autonomous driving technology is much less popular among consumers than one would guess based on all the media coverage it gets. Despite all the headlines and fanfare, recent studies show consumers are more hesitant to embrace the innovation when they think about their next car purchase.

    A U.S.-based poll by Kelley Blue Book indicates that while there’s definitely some interest in autonomous vehicle technology, consumers don’t actually think of driving as a chore and don’t necessarily want to give up control of the steering wheel. But on the plus side for Nissan, the study also found that allowing people to test out the technology is one of the best catalysts to adoption. So maybe the gimmick of the self-driving chair will be enough to change people’s feelings about using the technology in their cars. If nothing else, at least the chairs add to the long list of oddly cool tech gadgets we get to see strewn about Japan.

    Nissan is encouraging businesses in Japan to apply for the chairs now and we’ll see them queueing up outside restaurants beginning early next year.

    Kelly Paik
    Kelly Paik writes about science and technology for Fanvive. When she's not catching up on the latest innovations, she uses her free-time painting and roaming to places with languages she can't speak. Because she rather enjoys fumbling through cities and picking things on the menu through a process of eeny meeny miny moe.