Fast Company

Nissan's Interior Design: Trading Safety, Fuel Efficiency for Spa-Like Comfort?


Nissan's just released information about a new concept for its cars designed to generate a "comfortable" and "healthy" environment for drivers and passengers. Is this viable, in our eco-conscious energy-saving era?

The overall goal of the "Health and Well-Being" design is to "reduce stress and fatigue of drivers and passengers" by "providing body and mind" with all the comfort needed to produce an "optimum" driving experience.

Boil this market speak down to something digestible, and what do you get, though? Design that's supposed to improve driver and passenger comfort in a car, so that driving and being driven is less stressful and more healthy somehow. The result is three adaptations to Nissan's car design elements: The Comfortable Captain Seat, Advanced Climate Control System and Quick Comfort Seat Heater.

The seat is actually pretty whizzy, and it's got three-layered padding, an articulated back rest and an integrated leg-rest that rises up to support your shins La-Z-Boy style when reclined. Nissan says its the first car maker to put all three elements into a seat. The culture system has a polyphenol air filter, and sprays "plasmacluster" ions at you--which have been proven to "keep the skin naturally moisturized." Meanwhile the seat heater is the first to use "human temperature sensitivity studies" to optimize how it warms up your butt, by first heating thighs and rump so you feel warmer, and stabilizes and maintaining heat. Nissan says it's shortened the time needed to make a driver feel warm by 35% over competing systems, and the sense of comfort reduces the effects of driver fatigue.

So, here's a question: When you're tired and driving (and know you should actually stop, but keep driving anyway) don't you try and wake yourself up by cranking the stereo up, cracking the window to get a blast of cold air, and making sure you're sitting up straight? All of these tricks seem incompatible with Nissan's efforts. Now sure, a more comfy seat and car interior environment may slow the onset of driving-related fatigue, which may be a good thing, but when you get fatigued it sounds like it'll make you sleepier.

That's just supposition, and this stuff is definitely innovative. But all of these systems Nissan is introducing require power. And in small, but significant ways, this power has to come from your engine. And that means it'll drink more fuel. Are all these tweaks a good thing to concentrate on when the world's worrying about oil consumption?

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  • vince rubino

    Regardless of fuel efficiency, cars are terrible for the environment. Electric, hybrid, hydrogen, whatever... cars have defined American city development strategy with fairly disastrous results. And now this strategy is being exported to China and India by car companies and local bureaucrats who are looking to produce jobs at any environmental price.