Could the Xmotion Be the Future of Nissan SUVs?
At the 2018 North American International Auto Show, Nissan unveiled its latest concept car: the Xmotion. The Xmotion is a three-row Nissan SUV with a unique exterior and interior design that makes it look more like a spaceship than a car. The SUV has one more unique feature: it is an autonomous vehicle or “self-driving car.” The goal for the Xmotion is to “fuse Japanese culture and traditional craftsmanship with American-style utility and new-generation Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology.”
There is no doubt that the Xmotion is a stunning and truly groundbreaking concept. After all, it did win the 2018 EyesOn Design Award. However, despite the potential offered by the new vehicle in terms of both its looks and capabilities, can we really trust this autonomous vehicle to be safe and perform as it’s supposed to? In this article, we’ll take you through the specs of the new Xmotion concept and bring in some research and current news about autonomous vehicles. The question of the safety of autonomous vehicles, unfortunately, has no simple answer.
The Xmotion’s Design
The stunning, eye-catching design of the Xmotion truly stands out among Nissan SUVs. The exterior of the vehicle looks simultaneously rugged and yet beautifully elegant, like a futuristic space rover. In addition to Nissan’s iconic v-motion grille, the body of the Xmotion features a u-shaped bodyside highlight and offers an intense sculptural presentation. The drastically sculpted body is intended to “embody purposeful strength,” which the Xmotion more than succeeds at.
The interior is even more striking than the exterior. The doors open double door style to reveal a red-carpeted interior and wood paneling. There are three rows of two seats, offering seating for six. The center console runs through the middle of the entire vehicle, including a place in the center-rear of the console that detects the motions of the passenger and can be used to control entertainment and climate control systems.
The Xmotion tries to make the driving experience as integrated as possible with various driver assist technologies and even includes a digital assistant in the form of a koi fish. The interior uses fingerprint technology so that the driver can press a finger to the pad to start the car. Starting the car initiates the opening sequence and activates the koi fish assistant. When using the autonomous driving mode, the koi fish will pick up data along the way, acting as a connection between the driver and the vehicle.
As if this wasn’t enough, the Xmotion features a whopping seven touch screens in lieu of other traditional dashboard monitors or meters. There are three main touchscreens, one in the center of the dash, one on the right side of the dash, and one on the left side of the dash. Each end is capped with another screen in order to take up the entire dashboard. There is also a screen in the center console and a “digital room mirror” that takes the place of the traditional rearview mirror. Controlling these various screens is supposed to be easy; the driver can use hand gestures or even eye motions to control the screens.
Autonomous Vehicles: Safe or Not?
All of this begs the question of whether autonomous are vehicles safe or not. The answer to this question is quite complex, and the answer boils down to who you ask or what research you’re looking at. There is plenty of research on autonomous vehicles that point to their comparative safety. After all, Google’s autonomous vehicles are statistically safer than the average driver; Google’s autonomous car traveled 300,000 miles without a single accident, and the average American driver has an accident every 165,000 miles. Additionally, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles only reported 34 accidents involving autonomous vehicles since 2014. Of those 34 accidents, the autonomous vehicles were only at fault in four of them. Additionally, only one out of those four vehicles was in autonomous mode when the accident occurred. In this accident, the vehicle was traveling less than 10 MPH.
In addition to the statistical safety based on these studies, autonomous vehicles could bring us many social and economic benefits. For example, a federal study found that traffic accidents caused over 871 billion dollars in damages per year. If autonomous vehicles truly are statistically safer, then they would help ease this financial burden. Additionally, autonomous vehicles could provide a cost-effective solution to public transportation in many cities. The autonomous vehicle could also open up so many possibilities for people with disabilities who are otherwise unable to drive a traditional vehicle. Take Steve Mahan, a blind man in California who used one of Google’s autonomous vehicles to run errands, as an example. He says that autonomous vehicles would “give me the independence and flexibility to go the places I both want to go and need to go when I need to do those things.” Autonomous vehicles could potentially change the lives of disabled people in America.
However, for all of the positive potentials of autonomous vehicles, there are the downsides as well. There have been multiple reports of people being killed by autonomous vehicles, whether they are in the car, in another car, or even walking down the street. On March 18, 2018, a woman in Arizona was killed after being hit by one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles that was not under the control of a driver. Only five days later, a Tesla Model X with its autonomous mode engaged crashed into a median on the highway in California. Two other vehicles struck it, the car caught fire, and the driver, unfortunately, did not survive. These two incidents, spaced so close together, were preceded by a crash in 2016, where a Tesla with its autonomous mode on crashed into a truck in Florida, killing the Tesla’s driver.
While there may be many potential benefits to society and to the economy by using autonomous vehicles, there are also very real dangers in the development and testing of autonomous vehicles. Whatever the risks or rewards, we likely won’t be seeing any of them from the Nissan Xmotion. As gorgeous as the vehicle is, Nissan has claimed that this SUV was merely a study in design and will not be available for public purchase. At least, not anytime soon.