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Nissan starts engine for driverless future

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At the Tokyo Motor Show this week, Nissan unveiled a concept car that combines manual and self-driving mode with zero emission electric vehicle technology. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at why this is different to your standard vision of the driverless car.|At the Tokyo Motor Show this week, Nissan unveiled a concept car that combines manual and self-driving mode with zero emission electric vehicle technology. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at why this is different to your standard vision of the driverless car.|At the Tokyo Motor Show this week, Nissan unveiled a concept car that combines manual and self-driving mode with zero emission electric vehicle technology. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at why this is different to your standard vision of the driverless car.

Imagine you’re the driver on a long journey with family or friends. Imagine you key in the destination address onto a screen, much as you may do on your phone or personal navigation device today. Now imagine you pull a lever, and the steering wheel recedes into the dashboard. You swing your seat around, and you are sitting in a moving lounge, facing your companions, settling in for a chat, a meal or even a board game.

That future came a step closer last week at the Tokyo Motor Show 2015. Nissan Motor unveiled the Nissan IDS Concept, a concept car that combines autonomous driving and zero emission technology for electric vehicles (EVs).

“Nissan’s forthcoming technologies will revolutionise the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility,” said Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver’s ability to see, think and react. It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 per cent of all car accidents. As a result, time spent behind the wheel is safer, cleaner, more efficient and more fun.”

Nissan points out that some have compared a future with autonomous drive to living in a world of conveyer belts that simply ferry people from point A to B. However, Nissan’s IDS Concept looks a little different to this soulless vision of tomorrow. Piloted Drive, it turns out, is not the same as automatic drive. When the driver turns over the driving to a computer, the car’s performance is claimed to imitate the driver’s own style and preferences.

That may sound like a recipe for disaster, given the aggressive driving style many driver’s adopt. The idea, however, is to provide for a seamless experience as the car moves from manual to self-driving.

In Manual Drive mode, says Nissan, the driver has control, although sensors continually monitor conditions and the IDS assists the driver in taking appropriate action when danger is sensed.

In other words, this isn’t artificial intelligence (AI) that takes over from the driver, but rather partners with the driver.

“From information concerning traffic conditions, the driver’s schedule to personal interests, Nissan IDS Concept’s AI helps create a driving experience that is comfortable, enjoyable and safe,” says the company.

“A key point behind the Nissan IDS Concept is communication,” according to Mitsunori Morita, Nissan’s design director. “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. The Nissan IDS Concept’s design embodies Nissan’s vision of autonomous drive as expressed in the phrase, ‘Together, we ride’.

“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 drive.”

That’s the one side of the equation. The other is the travel experience for all the passengers.

Nissan says the IDS Concept’s long wheelbase allows for a cabin with comfortable seating space for four adults. It becomes even more spacious when the driver pulls the lever that engages selects Piloted Drive: the steering wheel recedes, a large flat screen comes out, the seats rotate slightly inward, and the passengers are driving into the future.

In Manual Drive is engaged via the PD Commander, a switch between the front seats. Once activated, the seats all face forward and the steering wheel emerges, along with a heads-up display showing route, road and vehicle information.

At last, warning lights for pedestrians are also built into a car. The side body line contains an Intention Indicator, an LED strip that shines red when the vehicle senses pedestrians or cyclists nearby. A second electronic display, facing outside, flashes messages to pedestrians. Many drivers are going to take full advantage of that one!

Nissan will also bring its research into electric vehicle (EV) technology to bear on driverless cars. Right now, a typical EV has a range of no more than 140km of in-town driving. That makes it almost useless for long-distance travel. However, the technology is evolving fast, says Nissan.

Aside from emerging wireless charging technologies and piloted park that can be managed via smartphone or tablet, the IDS Concept also carries a high-capacity battery.

“By the time Nissan Intelligent Driving technology is available on production cars, EVs will be able to go great distances on a single charge,” said Morita. “Getting to this point will, of course, require the further evolution of batteries, but aerodynamic performance is also very important. We incorporated our most advanced aerodynamic technology in the design of the Nissan IDS Concept.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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CES: And thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for making and enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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