How the Nissan Pivo Works

Pivo's Daring Design

Be careful: You might actually need that third wheel here.
Be careful: You might actually need that third wheel here.
Nissan Motor Corporation/Getty Images News

On first glance, you'll love the look of the Pivo or hate it. Either way, there's no denying its originality. Pivo's developers practically scrapped a century's worth of automobile design convention, including the design axiom that a car must have a definitive front and a distinct rear.

With the Pivo, the front becomes the rear. Or is it the other way around? Whatever the case, anyone who's ever exhausted his or her arm muscles twisting a steering wheel can appreciate the Pivo's pivoting cockpit. To turn around, simply pivot the passenger compartment (as opposed to the entire car) and proceed in the opposite direction. Should you choose to make a conventional U-turn, the Pivo's independent steering system allows you to cut a much smaller turning radius than you could in an ordinary subcompact car.

The car seats three, with the driver positioned in the center and room for two passengers close behind. While the original Pivo lets passengers enter the car from either side, the front of the car hinges sideways on the Pivo 2 as the headlights, front windscreen and forward-facing part of the body serve as the door.

Pivo also eliminates visibility problems. Blind spots become virtually non-existent with the Pivo's bubble canopy and "around-view monitor" imaging system. An LCD monitor on the instrument panel relays vital information and displays 3-D maps that include points of interest such as coffee shops, parking lots and landmarks.

On a typical car, side view mirrors might have a label on the glass that reads, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." Ideally, you'd like to know exactly how close before you've traded paint with that classic 'Vette in the metered spot behind you. Nissan's around-view monitor eliminates the guesswork by creating a bird's eye view of the Pivo and its surroundings. Here's how it works: Four wide-angle, high resolution cameras and four sonar sensing units around the vehicle send their data to an image-processing computer. The processor blends the images, cleans them up, and produces a virtual top-down image of the car that appears as if it were being taken by a helicopter overhead. Combined with live images from the front and rear cameras, the driver can accurately gauge distance from the curb [source: Nissan Global].

In the Star Wars series, R2D2 served as a co-pilot, personal concierge and unlikely hero. Go to the next page to read why the Pivo 2's Robotic Agent has drawn comparisons to the tiny, talkative droid.