Reminiscing about warm summer nights at the ballpark always evokes thoughts of hot dogs, fresh cut grass, and watching field stripers meticulously line the diamond with chalk or spray paint. Soon, this nostalgia won’t exactly consist of middle-aged field stripers but rather, autonomous fleets of robots — if the car manufacturer Nissan has its way.
Called the Pitch-R, Nissan’s field-striping robot made its first appearance in May’s Champions League Final between soccer clubs Liverpool and Real Madrid in Kyiv, Ukraine. In just 20 minutes, the diminutive machine accurately and efficiently painted all the necessary lines needed for the match, producing a finished product capable of passing a rigorous pre-match inspection. Inspired by the company’s ProPILOT driver-assistance tech found in the new Nissan Leaf, the Pitch-R boasts four cameras, built-in GPS location tracking, and an advanced collision avoidance system.
Outfit with environmentally friendly and dissolvable white paint, the Pitch-R is able to work on either gravel, grass, or pavement and can stripe lines even if a playing surface is uneven or has various obstacles. After quickly analyzing its environment to assess where to accurately stripe, the battery-powered bot gets to work. No matter if it’s a field designed for five-a-side, seven-a-side, or 11-a-side matches, it’s capable of completing the job in 20 minutes or less.
Although it’s unknown if Nissan plans to put the Pitch-R into production, the company used the bright lights of the Champions League Final to further showcase what it calls Nissan Intelligent Mobility. According to the company, the project is designed to change “how cars are driven, powered, and integrated into society.” Similar to the way Tesla or Google are hoping to disrupt the auto industry with their own self-driving tech, Nissan Intelligent Mobility appears to be yet another stab at perfecting vehicle autonomy.
So, what does that have to do with a field-striping robot? On a much smaller scale than deploying a self-driving car on the highway, the Pitch-R allows Nissan to easily highlight its budding driver-assistance tech without running the risk of any serious damage. By putting a robot to work to accurately stripe a field used for one of the biggest soccer matches of the year, Nissan not only gets to test its tech in a fun way but does so with millions of people watching. The company says it’s the “first in a series of advanced prototypes being developed using Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies.”
“[The passion for soccer] drove our design and engineering team to create Pitch-R,” Jean-Pierre Diernaz, Nissan Europe’s vice president for marketing, said in a statement. “It injects the best of Nissan technology into an innovation which can benefit grassroots football and excite and engage young fans.”