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October 07, 2005

Baby you can park my car

Nissan has developed an egg-shaped car for drivers who find backing out of tight parking spots a hassle.

The car's body pivots 360 degrees so that its rear end becomes the front.

The Pivo, shown on Friday at a Tokyo Nissan showroom, is still an experimental model and probably will not go on sale publicly for several years. It is a three-seater electric car that looks like a big egg on wheels. Its body revolves in a complete circle while its wheels stay put.

Such moves are possible because Pivo's steering, wheels and other parts are controlled electronically by wireless, or electronic signals, not mechanical links between the cabin and the vehicle's chassis.

"This is a cute car for people who have problems parking," said Nissan Motor Co. chief designer Masato Inoue.

Pivo, also planned for display at the Tokyo auto show opening next month, highlights other technologies, including a system that allows the driver to control devices inside the car simply by raising his or her fingers off the steering wheel.

Finger pointing

That is done through a camera embedded in the steering wheel that senses heat. Lifting one finger might turn on the radio. Two fingers might set car navigation equipment.

The technology works much like voice-recognition capabilities already available in some advanced cars, but Tokyo-based Nissan says some people prefer finger-pointing than talking.

Pivo also allows the driver to see blind spots via cameras attached to the outside of the car.

Inoue says it is possible to design a gasoline-engine vehicles that spins in the same way if electronic controls are approved for traffic safety. But they are unlikely to have the round look of Pivo because a conventional engine requires more room than an electric motor.

06:00 AM in Nissan | Permalink

October 05, 2005

Clever car can improve your mood

Having a bad day? Your car could help put you in a better mood.

Japanese car maker Toyota is working with Stanford University in the U.S. and Edinburgh-based company Affective Media to create the car that can read your feelings.

Toyota has already unveiled a prototype of its Pod concept car, which has headlights that fade from bright to dull and change color to indicate happy, sad or angry moods, depending on how the driver inside is feeling.

The Pod was pitched as a way for drivers to communicate with each other, in an effort to prevent road rage. Lack of communication between drivers on roads is commonly believed to be a cause of road rage.

06:00 AM in Toyota | Permalink

October 04, 2005

City Cars - Smart Fortwo

Why buy one?
The ultimate town centre assault vehicle. It's amusing to drive and look at, while the cabin is cleverly thought out with a good view out. The only big downsides are the bouncy ride and jerky gearbox. Otherwise, the Fortwo is now getting cheap and the cheapest - early left-hand-drive models - will allow you to park and step onto the pavement.

What to look for
Nothing too major, although some engines replaced under warranty on early cars. Gearbox seems to give the most problems so make sure it works smoothly. Steering joints another area where the Smart seems to wear out a bit too early. Right-hand drive from November 2001.

Where to buy
Private owners are dedicated Smarties and have looked after them fanatically. Look to get a better warranty at a Smart Centre, but increasing numbers of independent specialists have good expertise and good-value models.

06:05 AM in Smart Fortwo | Permalink

October 03, 2005

Mazda to make all cars nearly free of harmful metals in 2006

Mazda plans to virtually eradicate four heavy metals deemed harmful to the environment from all of its domestic and foreign car models by the end of the year, according to Asia Pulse.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) has set voluntary goals for eliminating the use of the four hazardous materials - lead, hexavalent chromium, cadmium and mercury- but Mazda's own targets beat the industry's by a few years.

Mazda also intends to eliminate the materials from existing models, while JAMA's goals only apply to new cars.

By the end of the year, Mazda plans to stop using cadmium, which is mainly incorporated to prevent electrical parts from wearing, by switching to alternative materials.

06:13 AM in Mazda | Permalink