History might suggest that if, in 1967, someone had been asked to describe the kinds of cars we’d be driving in 2017, the predictions would probably have been very wrong.
Predicting the future is well towards the top on a scale of ‘1-to-impossible’, but it is something the world’s car makers have to do as they plan their future product.
Take Japanese car maker Nissan, which is currently running ‘Living lab’ research at its US-based Nissan Future Laboratory with a series of real-world experiments and trials it believes will bring future mobility scenarios to life.
Future Lab was established two years ago as a part of Nissan's global advanced planning group and looks decades into the future in a bid to identify potential issues and opportunities for the company as it heads into the future.
Interestingly – and with its own degree of difficulty -- Nissan Future Lab tries to look beyond the actual end products and tries to examine our future mobility in much broader terms.
The group is taking its inspiration from rapid developments in automotive technologies such as electric, autonomous and connected vehicles and trends that include ride sharing.
The Living Lab research, Nissan says, will hopefully give it the information it needs to anticipate the world’s motoring future and evolve vehicles to meet our future transportation needs.
It is no easy task and rather than float thought bubbles over coffee and doughnuts, Nissan and its network of external partners combine corporate hardware with outside software and real world information as a means of preparing for ‘beta testing’, the last stage of a test process which usually involves sending product to external test sites or groups for real-world exposure.
To that end, the Living Labs are directing their development focus on vehicle ownership structures, the changing marketplace for vehicle technology and new uses for electric vehicles.
Last October, for example, the company delivered 10 Nissan New Mobility Concept (NNMC) vehicles to San Francisco’s Scoot Networks for trial.
Electrically-powered and fitting in between a motorbike and a light car, the tiny, all-electric two-seaters are available for rent. The pilot program does, however, give Nissan constant and valuable data on the mobility needs of people living in one of America’s bigger cities.
It also helps Nissan study the expanding use of electric vehicles, including the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology it has been taking part in, with the United States Air Force, since 2014.
As part of the program, a fleet of Nissan Leaf electric cars has been modified to discharge their power back into the electricity grid through a series of bi-directional charging stations.
The exchange is used to balance the overall load by absorbing excess power, then putting it back into the grid during times of high demand.
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