The variable-geometry steering swivels the wheels up to 90 degrees for ‘sideways’ parking and also moves each whole wheel-suspension-steering assembly in an arc, varying track width and wheelbase length under acceleration, deceleration and cornering for increased stability and ride comfort.
The Pivo 2 uses camera ‘eyes’ and voice patterns to measure the driver’s mood, and attempts to keep him or her in a happy and alert frame of mind for safer driving. The Robot Assistant swivels back and forth, issuing turn-by-turn instructions and warning of traffic jams ahead, but regularly looks back at the driver, studying facial expressions and analysing voice patterns.
Masahico Tabe, Nissan’s Senior Manager, Advanced Vehicle Group, says driver-assistance features like ESP and ABS contribute materially to safety, but “the most important thing is good relations between the driver and the vehicle. A happy driver is a safe driver.”
Other Nissan engineers say voice pattern mood measurement will be a challenge for any vehicle sold worldwide. Studies in Japan and the US have shown a wide variation in voices expressing similar emotions.
Production will start around 2010, but it is not yet determined if a little round swivelling head with a synthesised voice, a ‘smiling’ mouth made of orange LEDs, and bug-eyed camera lenses will be the final form.