TOKYO, Japan – Every major auto show has to have something outrageous and at the 2015 Tokyo auto show this week it was Nissan that appeared to have the upper hand.
Star of the stand and putting stars in the eyes of Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn was the Nissan IDS Concept, an autonomous-driving and zero-emissions electric car designed, Nissan said, “to revolutionise the relationship between car and driver and future mobility”.
Amazing, isn’t it, how auto designers seem to take their cues from futuristic illustrations in sci-fi comic magazines of the 1950’s? As each global show rolls around the usual comments involve “Wow, what will they think of next?” The Nissan IDS Mk.II, perhaps…
In August 2013 Ghosn was reported as saying that Nissan planned, by 2020, to equip a number of vehicles with autonomous (no human involvement) drive technology. The IDS shows his dream could well come true.
He said on Tuesday (Oct 27 2015): “After leading the development and expansion of EV (electric vehicle) technology (think the LEAF) Nissan once again stands at the forefront of automotive technology.
“By integrating advanced vehicle control and safety technologies with cutting-edge artificial intelligence Nissan is among the leaders developing practical, real-world applications of autonomous drive technology.
“Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver’s ability to see, think and react. It compensates for human error – the cause more than 90% of all car crashes. As a result, time spent behind the wheel is safer, cleaner, more efficient and more fun.”
The IDS, Nissan asserts, learns from the way its owner drives – accelerating, cornering, braking – and imitates it. (So, if the owner is a lousy driver, does the car also become a lousy driver? – Editor)
However, Nissan said, when a human is driving the IDS will monitor things and stand ready to pounce in extremis with evasive action. The computers, the automaker added, will know the driver’s schedule and person interests (music, radio station choice, phone contacts, internet favourites, diary entries, we assume?)
“The intention,” Nissan says, “is to help create a comfortable, enjoyable and safe driving experience.”
Design director Mitsunori Morita explained the concept of “together we ride”. The car has two interiors: one for when a human is in control, the other for everybody in the car to socialise – including the driver.
The IDS is a hatchback but its long wheelbase allows comfortable seating for four adults; more space opens up when Piloted Drive is engaged. The steering-wheel recedes into the centre of the instrument panel to be replaced by a large flat screen. Various driving-related operations are handled by artificial intelligence and voice/gestures from the driver.
Each of the four individual seats rotates slightly inward. “It’s like relaxing in a living room,” Nissan says. Things are simply reversed when the carmaster (new word, just made it up!) resumes control.
Ghosn said in his presentation: “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.”
People, Nissan pointed out, OUTSIDE the car also need to fully trust the technology. (Hmmm, never thought about that! – Editor).
“The IDS promotes confidence and a sense of harmony for those outside the,” Nissan explained. “Various exterior lights and displays convey to pedestrians and others the car’s awareness of its surroundings and signal its intentions.
“The silver side-body line, for example, is an LED – an Intention Indicator. When pedestrians or cyclists are nearby the strip shines red, signalling that the car is aware of them. Another electronic display visible through the windscreen shows messages such as ‘After you…” to pedestrians.
“This natural, harmonious system of communication signals a new future with cars.”
Morita again: “By the time Nissan Intelligent Driving technology is available on production cars electric vehicles will be capable of great distances on a single charge but aerodynamic performance is also very important. We incorporated our most advanced aero technology into the IDS.”
The carbon-fibre body is only 1.38m high. The wheel rims are finned, the tyres large-diameter but narrow.
The IDS Concept has a high-capacity 60kWh battery. The car finds and uses its own parking-garage slot and, once stationary, will self-charge from and adjacent facility.