It’s the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, so obviously there will be cars, ice-cream trucks and a golf ball that finds the hole. With the Detroit Motor Show shifting to later in the year, the CES attracted the biggest and best of future auto technology. Nissan was there with stunning, future-looking offerings.
Perhaps Detroit moved out of its traditional January slot to avoid being overshadowed by CES. Cars, after all, are not simple mechanical transport anymore. They are buzzing with edgy electronic magic and CES is the place to show this.
The biggest attraction at the Nissan stand was the Ariya (pronounced Area) Concept. This is compact SUV/crossover/hatchback with battery-electric drive and a range of around 500km. Even in the age of quick-charge EV stations, discerning EV drivers still prefer tank-of-petrol ranges.
It is not sure whether the Ariya will complement or replace the top-selling Nissan Leaf. The Leaf is a sedan, while the Ariya is an SUV. The latter body type has surpassed the former in popularity in the States. The Leaf drives the front wheels only, while the Ariya is all-wheel drive, with motors front and back.
This twin-motor system is called e-4orce (e-force). Its all-wheel control technology gives precise handling and stability, excellent cornering, better traction on slippery surfaces, and a more comfortable ride. The regenerative braking has been tweaked to minimise pitch and dive.
The Ariya has ProPilot Assist 2.0 self-driving technology, which provides Level 3 autonomy. This allows self-driving on some roads, typically freeways and similar. You have to keep your eyes on the road and this is monitored by a sensor. You still have to take over controls when you exit the designated road or in an emergency.
In normal you-drive mode, this ProPilot still gives you automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and lane-keeping and a centring assist, as well as adaptive cruise control with stop and go.
Nissan has found a novel way to demonstrate its ProPilot technology. At CES there was a putting green with a special golf ball that would steer itself. It uses a camera in a drone overhead to track the ball’s progress and give directions to the internal motor to change the ball’s path. In a car, the drone camera function is carried out by cameras and systems like radar, lidar and sonar in the car to keep the car on course and react to hazards.
A fun but practical offering at CES is the Nissan EV ice-cream van, based on the electric e-NV200 light commercial vehicle. This offers a zero-emission drivetrain, with second-life battery storage for the cooler and solar energy generation for the driver’s home as well. The second-life battery idea is to reuse existing batteries, in this case, lithium-ion cells recovered from first-generation Nissan EVs.
The golf ball sounds great, but what will happen if you hit it into the water, as some of us do?