Leave it to the Japanese automakers to come up with something really, really different. Perhaps its the lack of parking space in Japan, or maybe it’s just a sign of things to come, but Nissan and Suzuki are rethinking the automobile, and they’re certainly not thinking inside — or outside, or anywhere remotely near — the box. They’re thinking bubble.
At first glance, the Pivo 2 concept car (above), which Nissan plans to unveil later this month at the Tokyo Motor Show, looks like an overgrown child’s toy. But it ‘s actually a functional car, and it showcases some pretty cool ideas. For one thing, the driver enters through the front of the vehicle, which opens and closes automatically. The driver sits in the center on a single bench seat, with room for two passengers, one on either side. Once the front door closes, the steering column and steering wheel pivot down (the steering column is in the “up” position in the image below).
The Pivo 2 won’t break any speed records (at least not yet, anyway) but it’s ideal for city driving, and it’s guaranteed to make parking easier. Not only do the wheels pivot 90 degrees, so the car can move sideways in a crablike fashion, but the cabin itself rotates 360 degrees, making it easy for the driver to change direction without moving an inch. See a narrow space you’d like to pull into? Just pivot the wheels, spin the cabin around 90 degrees, and bingo! You’re there. Just think — no more parallel parking in the future! (That alone makes the Pivo 2 a car to covet.)
As if that’s not enough, the Pivo 2 comes with its own personal robot, which can converse with the driver in both Japanese and English. According to representatives at Nissan, the robot can also discern the mood and facial expressions of the driver, and can, for instance, help calm the driver down if the robot senses anger, or help keep the driver awake should the robot sense the driver is becoming drowsy. That’s a pretty cool passenger to have along.
The electric-powered Pivo 2 can be recharged by plugging it into any household electrical outlet. No word on whether, or if, it will ever be available for sale in the U.S.
Not to be outdone, Suzuki will also reportedly unveil its own bubble-topped mini-car, the Pixy, which comes with its own transporter, called the Suzuki Shared Coach, or SSC. Some bloggers have noted a definite Star Wars design scheme going on with the Pixy, which is a one-person vehicle. We’ll keep you posted on developments when it bows at the Tokyo show, which kicks off on Friday, Oct. 26.