At the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, Nissan and Foster + Partners concluded a 12-month collaboration by sharing their vision of where autonomous electric cars could take society. Called “Intelligent Mobility”, it builds on themes of connectivity, urban planning, the modern workplace, and community.
Before we go any farther, watch the video above. Unless you like reading without context.
Intelligent Mobility is the grand vision encompassing Nissan’s Intelligent Driving System, or IDS. Introduced last year, IDS is their take on semi-autonomous cars.
The system is an ingenious way to onboard people to semi-autonomous driving. Under human control, an IDS vehicle uses an algorithm to learn the best of how a person drives. The car mimics that behavior in autonomous mode.
Think about that. If the self-driving experience is seamless from one’s normal driving habits, a logical barrier to adoption could be overcome.
“Technology holds many of the answers for the challenges we face in our cities today,” said Paul Willcox, chairman, Nissan Europe. “However, the true power comes when those technologies are integrated with each other and the world around us. We’ve been at the forefront of zero emission technology since 2010, but our vision does not stop there. We believe that the future of transportation is reliant on both infrastructure and the environment. We’re looking for real, workable solutions that go beyond the product.”
Watch the video. Intelligent Mobility implies a virtuous cycle between electric cars and the infrastructure of the local utility. Cars contribute battery power to the grid, mitigating household and business electrical usage. In turn, the local utility replenishes battery charge. I would imagine that there is some kind of staged draw/replenish in their vision, allowing each vehicle to contribute a certain amount of power back to the system. Whether the donation would come before or after topping off the battery is one of many good questions to ask.
The world of Intelligent Mobility utilizes more alt energy sources. I would imagine that the Nissan Leafs and IDS’s in this future depend heavily on solar charging to help replenish onboard batteries. Which addresses some of the questions in the above paragraph.
I am led to think that EV batteries and charging stations are significantly more powerful than today’s models. The idea of cars self-driving themselves to and from a charging station while owners sleep is really cool. My question is how long it takes to charge versus the number of cars in the scheme. Think of a city street with 24 cars and 2 chargers on each side. If the charging system takes more than 20 minutes to fill a battery from 25% full, then the scheme will run out of time.
If you let your mind go you can see the big challenges to government. If you install 2 wireless induction chargers on each side of a block, how does a moderate sized municipality budget for the cost of construction and maintenance?
Does Intelligent Mobility see a reformed highway and infrastructure plan funded by miles driven instead of gas taxes?
Who decides what neighborhoods get the wireless chargers first? Gentrified areas? Areas where college grads live? Or where blue-collar, service and retail-class families live?
Remember when the car drove into the building, past the cube farm and into a parking carousel? I understand the point Nissan was making. But do the cars drive in during a snowstorm? Torrential rains? What is the impact on a buildings HVAC with cars coming in and out all day? How do you work with cars coming in and out all day? How do you get out if the carousel breaks?
Who will pay for brownfield mitigation when we start plowing over gas stations and gasoline distribution facilities? In this scenario, Big Oil has probably been reduced to Little Puddle, and won’t have big bucks to pay to clean up their messes.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to live in an Intelligent Mobility city. However, I am as pragmatic as I am a dreamer. This, along with all imagined futures, are filled with engineered outcomes built on the best of intentions. I think over 40% of Nissan’s vision can be accomplished with current technology. The tech will improve and get cheaper, lowering the threshold for the rest.
But new tech can only go so far. The “last mile” of making Intelligent Mobility real will depend upon technology reliability, usability and politics.
Not the most stable 3-legged stool a person could stand on….