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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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Huawei Mate 20 Pro matches camera benchmark record

A benchmark by DxOMark sees the triple-cam handset tie with the P20 Pro for best smartphone camera on the market.

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The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has come out top in a camera benchmark test that assesses all aspects of smartphone camera performance.

DxOMark, which conducts rigorous hardware testing and is trusted as an industry standard for image quality measurements, has just released the results of its in-depth analysis of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone camera. 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest top-end device. Building on the P20 Pro’s camera technology, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a Leica-branded triple-camera setup, but swaps its stable-mate’s monochrome camera for a super-wide-angle module, offering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range from 16 to 80mm—the widest of all current smartphone cameras.

The handset is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone XS Max, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, among other. How does it fare?

“With a total photo score of 114, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro ties the record-setting score of its cousin, the P20 Pro,” says DxOMark. “The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.”

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro achieves a photo score of 114 points. In stills mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s triple camera captures images with good target exposure and a wide dynamic range, recording both good highlight and shadow detail even in difficult high-contrast situations. Noise levels are well under control down to low light levels, and the camera’s white balance system and colour rendering settings produce a pleasant colour response in almost all circumstances.

At 97 points, the Mate 20 Pro is very close to the best for video as well, thanks to a fast and smooth autofocus system with good tracking performance, accurate white balance as well as pleasant colour rendering, and low levels of noise, especially in bright shooting conditions. Our testers also liked the exposure system’s ability to adapt quickly and smoothly to changes in illumination.

It was not all good news. DxOMark also had some criticism for the device.

Click here to read about the drawbacks of the Mate 20 Pro camera, and other positives.

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SA car wins
Dakar Rally

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The final stage of Dakar 2019 drew to a close at the bivouac in Pisco, Peru, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel bring home their South African-built Toyota Hilux for an historic victory. Not only was it a first win for Toyota, but it was also the first petrol-powered car to win the Dakar in the South-American era.

The Qatari driver ensured his French navigator, who turned 43 years old on Thursday, 17 January, received a great birthday present, when the pair arrived at the final time control of Dakar 2019 with teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in close formation. The two Toyota Hilux crews completed the entire stage together, as De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz waited nearly 55 minutes for the leaders to start the stage, in order to shadow them to the finish.

The emotions bubbled over for Team Principal Glyn Hall, who found himself without words as his two crews drove into the media area after the time control. “This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed, before being swamped in a sea of well-wishers.

The winning driver, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA led Dakar 2019 from the first to the last stage, with Al Attiyah/Baumel drawing first blood, before handing the mantle to De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz during stage 2. But then a disastrous Stage 3 saw the Qatari retake the lead – a lead he didn’t relinquish despite some of the toughest stages yet seen on any South-American Dakar.

“When we first heard that the rally was going to take place only in one country, we were skeptical,” said Hall after regaining composure. “But the organisers made sure that this year’s race will long be remembered as one of the toughest tests in the last decade.”

Al Attiyah / Baumel’s victory at Dakar 2019 means that Toyota Gazoo Racing has now won both of the world’s toughest automotive races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the DakarRally.

Click here to read Glyn Hall’s comment on winning the Dakar Rally, as well as the rankings.

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