Could this be the way forward? Nissan has unveiled an an automated zero emission electric concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show 2015 which has both manual and automated modes. Called the Nissan IDS Concept, the good looking hatchback features a piloted mode where 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 AI (Artificial Intelligence), complemented by voice and gestures from the driver. The interior, which comprises natural materials such as mesh leather, is illuminated by soft light and all four seats rotate slightly inward, facilitating easier conversation. The idea is it’s like relaxing in a living room!
Alternatively when the driver selects Manual Drive, the interior transforms to put the driver in control. and all seats face forward. The steering wheel, which takes styling cues from reins for horse riding, appears along with driving meters and a heads-up display that shows route and other driving information. Interior lighting switches to blue, in order to stimulate the ability to concentrate.
Needless to say sensors continually monitor conditions and assistance is available even while the driver is in control. In the event of imminent danger, the Nissan IDS Concept will assist the driver in taking evasive action, just as many of the cars today can do already.
Rather cleverly, exterior lights and displays convey to pedestrians and others the car’s awareness of its surroundings and signals its intentions. The car’s silver side body line, for example, is actually an LED that Nissan calls the Intention Indicator (see image below).
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.
“In every situation, it is about giving the driver more choices and greater control. And the driver will remain the focus of our technology development efforts,” Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn told audiences at the show.
The transformation to Manual Drive can be carried out with ease through a switch between the front seats called the PD Commander. This is the only control the driver can physically operate when the car is in Piloted Drive.
The Nissan IDS Concept is fitted with a high-capacity 60 kWh battery, and thanks to its aerodynamics, low stance, flowing form and reduced weight due to its full-carbon-fibre body, the vehicle is designed for long distances. Other technologies on the Nissan IDS Concept include Piloted Park that can be operated by smartphone or tablet, and wireless charging technologies. Through these, the driver can leave parking and charging to the car.
In August 2013, Ghosn said that by 2020 Nissan plans to equip innovative autonomous drive technology on multiple vehicles and Nissan claims progress is well on track to achieve this goal. Nissan leads the world in zero-emission mobility, with the LEAF, currently the biggest selling pure-electric vehicle in the UK.