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Motoring dreams for the future, now

Technology that would have been the stuff of dreams in the past decade is quickly coming to life. Practical, silly or bombastic, it’s news that has heads turning, writes Luke Feltham

Nissan offers ecobaby naps

When all else fails, it’s a common practice for fed-up parents to take their restless infants for a drive in an effort to lull them to sleep. The problem, Nissan says, is your internal combustion engine is releasing filthy CO2 emissions. So you are sacrificing the ozone layer for your own selfish peace and quiet.

The Nissan Leaf

But you can’t use an electric car such as the Nissan Leaf to put the baby to sleep. Nissan scientists say it’s the noise of the ride and not its motion that helps to get your baby to nod off. 

Until now. 

Nissan has released Dream Drive, a “zero-emission lullaby”. It’s a playlist that mimics the sound of an internal combustion engine, with some electric notes thrown in for good measure. Although it is marketed for the Leaf, you can get the soundtrack on Spotify or any other streaming service. So it would seem the point is … you don’t really need a car.

Bronco back on the streets

Okay, this is more a trip to an updated past than the future. From 2021 you will be able to order a brand new Ford Bronco, a car that stopped being produced in 1996. 

It’s a gutsy move bringing it back. The car achieved global notoriety when almost 100-million people watched live as OJ Simpson gave police the runaround for hours on a Los Angeles highway in 1994. The chase went down in history, spawned countless rap lyrics and ensured the Bronco will invariably conjure up images of the globe’s most-followed murder trial. 

Ford has denied Simpson had anything to do with the plan to halt production, but either way it has decided that 2021 is the year to bring the Bronco back. 

It looks pretty futuristic too, with lots of bits and bobs that can be customised or removed. But no word on whether it’s available in white. 

Project Vector takes off 

Jaguar Land Rover has unveiled what it calls the “future of urban mobility”. Project Vector is a self-driving six-seater pod designed to serve as an autonomous minibus.

Although the electric car very much has a prototype feel to it, Jaguar Land Rover has promised that trials will begin as early as next year. A fleet of 20 of the odd-looking vehicles will be put to work in Coventry, England, ferrying students to and from the University of Warwick.

The success of the trials may greatly influence the future of autonomous travel. If Project Vector can prove itself on the small task it’s been given, its applications will become limitless.

Autonomous driving takes a hit

Advocates of autonomous driving will welcome any positive news after taking a hit in the United States. Authorities this week partially suspended the use of the electric bus offered by France’s EasyMile after a passenger in Ohio was slightly injured.

One of the self-driving shuttles was reportedly travelling at a not-so-blistering 11km an hour when it had to implement an emergency stop, hurling a passenger from the seat. It’s not the first time it has happened either: another passenger was hurt in Utah in a similar incident last year.

The shuttles in Ohio can continue to operate, but without passengers, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration carries out its investigation, according to tech-news online magazine The Verge.

EasyMile has been operating in 10 US states, generally travelling in loops with a radius of about 5km.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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