By: IOL Motoring Staff
Tokyo Motor Show - Nissan may be on the front row of the alternative-fuels grid, but until now has made scarcely a ripple in the autonomous driving or connected-car space.
Until now. The stars of the Nissan display at Japan's premier auto expo are the IDS self-driving concept and the Teatro for Dayz - which is not so much as car as a mobile device on wheels. The IDS, in particular, represents what Nissan believes next-generation vehicles should be.
“Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver's ability to see, think and react,” said Renault Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn in his presentation. “It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 percent of all car accidents. As a result, time spent behind the wheel is safer, cleaner, more efficient and more fun.”
Some say living with self-driving cars will be like a world of conveyer belts that simply ferry people from A to B, but the IDS concept looks at it from a very different point of view.
When the driver selects Piloted Drive and turns over control to the car, its performance - from accelerating to braking to cornering - imitates the driver's own style. And in manual mode the driver has control, but the car doesn't just switch off. It's always there in the background, ready to provide assistance.
Its sensors continue to monitor conditions and in the event of imminent danger, it'll help the driver to take evasive action.
The self-driving system - Ghosn went so far as to call it artificial intelligence - not only learns from where you go, what you do and how you do it, it also communicates with you like a personal assistant, with information about traffic conditions, reminders about your schedule and even your personal interests.
Design director Mitsunori Morita explained: “The Nissan IDS Concept has different interiors depending on whether the driver opts for Piloted Drive or Manual Drive. This was something that we thought was absolutely necessary to express our idea of autonomous driving.”
TRANSFORMING THE ENVIRONMENT
When the driver selects Piloted Drive, the steering wheel recedes into the centre of the instrument panel and a large flat screen comes out. Various driving-related operations are handled by artificial intelligence, voice and gestures from the driver. All four seats rotate slightly inward, to make conversation easier.
But when the driver selects Manual Drive, by means of a switch between the front seats (it's the only physical control that can be operated in piloted mode), the seats face forward, the steering wheel re-appears, along with driving meters and a heads-up display that shows route and other driving information. Even the interior lighting switches to blue, to help you concentrate.
Other features include Piloted Park, remotely operated by smartphone or tablet, and wireless charging; thanks to these, you can leave parking and charging to the car while you get on with your life.
For cars that drive themselves to be widely accepted, people need to trust the technology - not just the owners, but also the people around them. The IDS concept promotes confidence by using exterior lights and displays to convey its awareness of its surroundings and signal its intentions.
The silver line down the side of the body, for example, is actually an LED; when pedestrians or cyclists are nearby, the strip shines red, signalling that the car is aware of them. Another electronic display, which faces outside from the instrument panel, can flash messages such as “After you” to pedestrians.
Nissan's zero emission strategy centres on battery-powered electric cars; the aim is to develop better electric motors, batteries and inverters so it can mass-produce battery cars that equal or better the convenience of petrol-powered vehicles.
The IDS concept has a high-capacity 60kWh battery, outstanding aerodynamics and light weight thanks to an all-carbon fibre body, all of which help to extend its range.
TEATRO FOR DAYZ: MOBILE TECHNOLOGY FOR CONNECTING AND SHARING
We are entering an era of young drivers who cannot grasp the concept of life without an electronic device instantly to hand, and car designers need to understand that what moves young people today is not what moved their parents. We are, in fact, looking at a new definition of mobility.
Used to be a driving licence was a ticket to freedom; but the generation that went straight from the cradle to the internet sees things differently. According to Nissan product planning manager Hidemi Sasaki, what moves them is capturing experiences in photos and video, and sharing them; friends respond with 'likes' and share the experience further.
For the preople he calls 'share natives', he says, excitement comes not from ownership of material objects, but from using things to connect with friends and share enjoyment. Many of them describe driving as stressful because they can only share their current experience with the other people in the car.
“What they want from cars is not the joy of driving or their own private space, but a better way to connect with friends and share experiences.”
Enter the Teatro for Dayz. It's small (digital natives like small), battery powered because they're more at ease with connecting their devices to chargers than having to visit a garage to re-fuel - and it can be used anywhere to recharge hand-held devices.
But most importantly, it's a clean canvas. When it's in drive mode meters, controls and maps are displayed on a white instrument panel. But when it's parked, the whole interior becomes a live display, complete with top-quality sound.
You can customise the instrument panel - and the whole cabin - as you do the home screen on your handheld device, take pictures - inside and out - and share them via social media, decorate for an online party and share the moment with friends, or get busy with some serious gaming.
It's an out-of-the-box concept that defies convention and rejects restrictions, allowing you to design your own experiences, connect with friends, display an attitude and freely share them.