Concept cars with information devices are being demonstrated by automakers at the 35th Tokyo Motor Show.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. is exhibiting a concept next-generation in-vehicle telecom system, the “2003i.” Nissan intends to commercialize it in 2003, when the third-generation mobile phone is expected to come into widespread use. This system is mounted on the current “Primera” model at the exhibition.
This is a new integrated system that operates car navigation, music playing in MP3 format, and online information collection with one single mobile terminal. Using a jog dial and buttons (see the right-hand side of the steering wheel in photo below) installed on a steering wheel, users can execute all the operations without looking at their hands while driving.
Practically, this system could be developed by a voice navigation system, and its “Force Feedback” mechanism can be employed for the jog dial. When a user wants to select any one of the four menu items, the user turns the jog dial downwards to move the pointer like 1-> 2 -> 3 -> 4, and pushes in the dial where the desired item comes to the pointer. One of the features of the Force Feedback Mechanism mounted in this system is that the jog dial doesn’t go further down when the pointer reaches item number 4. Therefore, the driver can realize which menu item he or she is at without looking at the monitor.
Another eye-catching exhibit at Nissan’s booth is “Nails,” a pick-up truck concept car. One of the most notable characteristics of Nails is what is called a keitai (mobile phone)-key system. The driver is identified if his or her mobile phone is inserted into a slot in the middle of the dashboard. No matter who comes to sit in the driver’s seat, it is possible to set the system back to the driver’s preference at once with the driver’s mobile phone inserted into the slot. The driver can talk with a friend whose face is shown on an LCD, check e-mails by voice commands, etc. Nails looks as though it is like a mobile communications terminal itself.
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has been developing information control technology using an interactive voice recognition system in collaboration with NTT Corp. It is exhibiting a concept panel called the “IT Instrument Panel” (see photo). This is mounted in “Dualnote,” Honda’s concept sports car. An information terminal is synchronized with a speedometer on which an alert is displayed when a new e-mail or a call arrives. A sensor display placed between the information terminal and the speedometer is synchronized with a car navigation system and an infrared sensor outside the car. This sensor display shows, for example, arrows guiding the directions at intersections and warnings of walkers ahead in the direction.
Toyota Motor Corp. is exhibiting “G-BOOK,” its future Internet information services for vehicles, and a “pod” car that “grows.”
Toyota, occupying the largest space at the center of the exhibition hall, is demonstrating the “pod” developed jointly with Sony Corp. (see photo) This is a pet-like small car that expresses its emotions using blue and green lights surrounding the body and a “tail” at the end. Its “brain” is a palm-sized mobile information device called “mini-pod.” (photo below)
Mini-pod functions as an avatar of the pod that learns preferences of its “master” and conveys them to the pod. Taken out of the car and connected to a PC at home, the mini-pod can store information originally retrieved from the PC, and it becomes a navigation system showing that information when it is connected to the car. This way, for example, the driver can drive to shops he or she never visited by the guidance of the mini-pod. The mini-pod also can select the master’s favorite music numbers to be played in the car for the next driving experience as it “learns” the type of music the driver likes. Mini-pod acts like a pet by amiably blinking its built-in lights to please the master. The mini-pod presents a concept that a user will be able to always carry a part of his or her lifestyle in the car, just like a mobile phone.
In addition, General Motors Corp. of the United States is exhibiting “e-Cruze,” a concept car with a back seat equipped with an information device. Also, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. is presenting “CZ2,” a similar type of concept car. These terminals are designed to be used for DVD playing, Web page browsing, and other functions.