Nissan revealed a new autonomous vehicle concept at the 2015 Tokyo motor show today. Called the IDS, the five-door hatchback is a far cry from the IDx concept shown in Tokyo just a few years ago. While both the normal and Nismo variant of the IDx pointed towards a more analogue future small car, the IDS is the polar opposite: An electrically propelled autonomous hatchback that embraces artificial intelligence.
Built entirely from carbon fiber, the IDS concept’s 1380mm tall body was designed to minimize aerodynamic drag while its tires are positioned close to the corners to maximize interior space while enabling a wrap-around cabin design. As with BMW’s i-brand products, Nissan selected large-diameter wheels for high-performance and sportiness, but used very thin 175-size tires to minimize air and rolling resistance. The wheels have a layered design suggestive of thin fins that create tiny vortexes of air flow on the wheel’s surface, further reducing drag.
Aimed at users that actually enjoy driving (imagine that!) the Nissan IDS concept employs two modes, a Piloted Drive mode and a Manual mode. When the latter mode is selected the steering wheel recedes back into the IP and is replaced by a screen, similar in size to a tablet. To cater to these two different driving modes, the four-passenger interior can be configured in two different ways: with the occupants facing straight ahead or with the four seats rotated slightly inward, to facilitate easier conversation for the occupants aboard.
“This was something that we thought was absolutely necessary to express our idea of autonomous drive,” says Nissan design director Mitsunori Morita.
Besides the array of screens on the IP, the interior also comprises natural materials such as mesh leather and is illuminated by soft light. But when the concept is in Manual mode – a transformation initiated via a switch between the front seats – the cockpit’s concentration centers on the driver’s experience. 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. Nissan’s use of hollow-structure A-pillars also enhances outward visibility and contributes to the feeling of open space.
“A key point behind the Nissan IDS Concept is communication,” says Morita, and to that end the concept employs artificial intelligence, voice and gestures from the driver to operate various driving-related operations. But the car also communicates with those outside the car as well. Various 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. When pedestrians or cyclists are nearby, the strip shines red, signaling 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.
“For autonomous drive to become reality, as a society we have to consider not only communication between car and driver but also between cars and people,” says Morita. “The Nissan IDS Concept’s design embodies Nissan’s vision of autonomous drive as expressed in the phrase: ‘Together, we ride.’”