The Nissan IMx KURO concept is a zero-emissions crossover that aims to investigate Brain-to-Vehicle technology. No. Really. Brain-to-Vehicle technology. I have no idea either, but I do hope they get it right. This car, the Nissan IMx KURO, is both a crossover concept and somewhat of a demonstrator platform for making vehicles even more predictive and safe with what Nissan calls Intelligent Mobility.
And apart from the overall crossover-ish design, it’s that Brain-to-Vehicle, or B2V, stuff that makes the Nissan IMx KURO so interesting. The overall design is simultaneously lumpy yet with protuberant edges, and none of it holds together well. The whole things screams “concept car” because you know there’s no way Nissan would make this.
Before You Know It . . .
This B2V technology has the potential to speed up reaction times for drivers, leading to cars that can keep adapting to make driving more enjoyable. Nissan says all this comes from “research into using brain decoding technology to predict a driver’s actions and detect discomfort” which sounds pretty creepy to me.
Nissan hopes by catching signs that a driver’s brain is about to initiate a movement, say turning the steering wheel, reaching for a control knob or pushing the brake pedal, driver assist technologies can begin the action more quickly. Ergo, reaction times improve and manual driving is enhanced. Or to put it more plainly, the car can see you reach for the control panel, think for itself (in a limited way) and say ‘A-ha! You’re going to turn the radio down, I’ll start doing that for you.’ But, you don’t have to be Marvin Minsky to see how this might not work.
The other, more subtle way that Nissan’s B2V stuff could work is while in full autonomous mode. If it detects you are feeling some level of discomfort, the artificial intelligence system can evaluate that and change the driving configuration or driving style.
Not to be gross about this, but here’s a concrete example: Suppose you’re in full autonomous mode, and decide to read some reports on the way into work. You’ve already told the IMx KURO to hurry along, so it’s driving rather rapidly and trying to make up time. But now the B2V system notices you’re looking a bit green around the gills, and decides to dial back on the abrupt lane changes to help you out. Get it?
All this is achieved by you wearing a device that measures your brain wave activity, which is then passed on and analyzed by the autonomous system. Then, by anticipating the intended movements, the vehicle takes action, for example turning the steering wheel or slowing down. The system can do that 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than you or I could – Nissan also adds “while remaining largely imperceptible” which I would have to feel to believe.
The IMx KURO also has other clever tricks up its sleeve, aside from coiling itself into your brain. Since it’s an EV, it has some party favors to make it a good citizen. For example, after getting you to the airport, the IMx KURO can then go park itself and find a spot where it can connect to the local power grid, and act as a “virtual” power plant by returning electricity to the grid. Slick, no?
Oh, and once you return to the airport, the IMx KURO can pick you up at the terminal and drive home with little to no input from you. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.
Power & Performance
And, and just in case you think the IMx KURO will be zero fun along with being zero emissions, keep in mind it’s driven by a pair of high-output electric motors living at each end of the car, giving you all-wheel drive capability. Combine that with the 320 kW of power and an astonishing 516 lb-ft. of torque (more than the Nissan GT-R kids) and this thing could really scoot.
There is also a high-capacity battery redesigned and re-engineered for increased energy density that supports a driving range of more than 370 miles on a single charge.
In some ways, Nissan could be onto something, but in others, I’m not sure your average customer wants to literally, physically connect their brain to a car.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.