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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nissan Unveils New Safety Technology

Japanese Automaker a Leader in Developing State-of-the-Art Safety Features

The Nissan Motor Company of Japan recently announced that some Nissan cars will soon be equipped with a gas pedal that lifts to warn of possible collisions, and the vehicle will automatically stop if drivers remove their foot from the accelerator in reaction to the warning.

This new safe driving technology merges radar sensors and a computer system to gauge the vehicle's speed and the distance to the vehicle ahead. Cars equipped with these new safety features will be offered this year in Japan, and next year in the U.S.

According to Nissan Senior Manager Yousuke Akatsu, the concept was to create a car that is a "friendly animal," whereby vehicle and driver can assess dangerous situations together.

"It is almost like riding a horse," Akatsu said. "The way the rider can have a dialogue with the horse."

Akatsu said the brakes kick in automatically to bring the car to a stop as soon as drivers lift their foot off the gas pedal. The car will keep going if the driver continues to step on the gas pedal.

Nissan also demonstrated an experimental system that uses sensors in the gearshift to measure alcohol levels in a driver's sweat. The system employs an electronic voice to warn the driver, but stops short of locking the ignition.

According to Nissan, drunk driving was the cause of 611 fatal accidents in Japan last year. While that's half the number of a decade ago, it still represents 10 percent of all fatal accidents.

The car also can tell if a driver is drifting between lanes, and is equipped with a computerized camera that monitors the driver's eye blinking to ascertain if a driver is drunk or drowsy.

People most likely will not buy such an intrusive car, said Nissan officials, but the technology may have appeal in commercial vehicles, such as in delivery trucks and taxi cabs.

The lane departure prevention technology is more practical, which swivels a car back into its lane if it drifts off. The Infiniti EX luxury model is offering this lane technology later this year in the U.S.

Nissan also used a dummy crash test to demonstrate bumper sensors that lift the engine hood slightly to soften the impact if the vehicle strikes a pedestrian.

Pedestrians can be injured more seriously and easily when struck by sport models, because the cars are lower to the ground and are designed with little space between the hood and engine. Lifting the hood on impact helps absorb the blow and reduces the injury potential to a pedestrian.

Nissan said the pop-up hood would be offered in Japan this year. Ford Motor Company's Jaguar, as well as Honda Motor Company, already offers the feature.

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