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December 21, 2015

It's All In Their Name: Nissan Wants Zero Emissions and Zero Fatalities in Its Cars

Photos by Ulysses Ang
With a name originating from “Nihon Sangyo” meaning Japan Industries, Nissan has the distinction of being one of the few automakers not named after its founder. Its name is a nod to its social responsibility.  Given this mandate, Nissan has an eye towards the future, making sure that everyone continues to enjoy sustainable mobility. In that regard, they have identified four key issues affecting cars: dependency on fossil fuel, global warming, urban congestion, and increased traffic accidents.

Though Nissan has already dropped its corporate average fuel economy by 36 percent globally since 2005 and decreased fatal and serious injuries (at least in Japan) by 61 percent since 1995, they believe they can do more. In fact, they have taken the challenge to create future mobility with zero emissions and zero fatalities. They’re confident that they’ve found the breakthrough in two key aspects: electrification and vehicle intelligence.

In terms of electrification, Nissan has been doing very well. The Nissan Leaf is the world’s best-selling electric vehicle (EV), selling already some 192,653 units as of September of this year. Cumulatively, these pure electric vehicles have done 3,711,022,567 kilometers or enough to go 12 times between the earth and the sun.  They have effectively reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 610,026 metric tons with around 42 km/L (compared to a conventional engine doing 15 km/L).

Though Leaf customers are generally happy with their cars (the satisfaction rating is above 75 percent), Nissan understands that their EV isn’t perfect with two problems: range anxiety and charging times. The first is solved by a newly developed denser 60 kWh battery pack. Only slightly larger than the Leaf’s 30kWh current battery, it enables the Leaf to travel more than 280 kilometers on a single charge. In addition, this new battery’s reduced impedance cuts the charging time required for a 100-kilometer journey to less than 10 minutes (currently, it needs around 15 minutes).

The second challenge for Nissan is to lower traffic accident fatalities to zero with the help of their autonomous driving technology. Currently, carmakers are already implementing technology that enhances driving capability, thanks to sensors (forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control to name a few), but Nissan has moved on to the next step.

Already adopting an experimental system on their Leaf, they’ve gone further and are going full on production. The reason is simple: Japan is ready. Because of Japan’s highly accurate road map, integrated data infrastructure, and high-speed internet, autonomous cars can be made a reality in a few years. Next year alone, some Nissan models will gain the capability to navigate traffic jams and single lane roads by itself, with highway and multi-lane abilities arriving two years later. By 2020, Nissan hopes to have the first fully autonomous driving vehicle that can actually pilot and negotiate through the city including busy intersections.

The Nissan IDS Concept (Intelligent Driving) Concept is a perfect sample. First shown at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show 2015, it’s aimed at improving a driver’s ability to see, think, and react. It compensates for human error which accounts for over 90 percent of automobile-related accidents. Unlike other autonomous driving concepts, where the experience is akin to driving on virtual conveyor belts, the IDS Concept promises a very different experience. Even when the driver selects ‘Piloted Drive’, it imitates the driver’s personal style and preference in terms of accelerating, braking, and cornering.

Though it can be driven manually, the IDS Concept continues to provide assistance using sensors that monitors conditions and assistance. In the event of imminent danger, the car will assist the driver in taking evasive action.

Throughout its long history, Nissan has always looked at providing mobility for all; after all, it’s in their name. Though mobility is open to interpretation, whether it’s through dynamic performance, innovative design, or productive traveling, Nissan simply wants to forge a closer partnership with their drivers. They want their cars to become a reliable partner for drivers while at the same time having their cars connect to their owner’s life as a whole. They sum everything up in a single phrase: “Together We Ride”—it’s a future where Nissan automobiles and their owners can enjoy the ride as one.

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