Automobiles

Nissan's IDS concept looks like an autonomous Leaf from the future

Nissan's Tokyo Motor Show star can drive itself and even communicate with pedestrians.

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Knife-edged fenders on the IDS cut through the air while making an impression.

Chris Paukert/CNET

TOKYO -- You're not looking at the next Nissan Leaf, but you could be forgiven for thinking as much. The Japanese automaker has pulled the sheet off its IDS concept at the Tokyo Motor Show, and while it isn't actually the second-generation all-electric hatchback, this show car likely says a lot about where the company's next EV will go.

Not only does the IDS concept include a battery pack twice the size of the recently upgraded 2016 Leaf (60 kWh versus 30), it also shows that Nissan continues to push headlong into autonomous driving technology. Back in 2013, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn proclaimed that his company would offer a fully autonomous car for sale by 2020, and the company says it's still on track to deliver.

The IDS features a manual drive mode with what looks like a flight yoke instead of a steering wheel. The latter folds away when in fully autonomous mode (revealing a tablet computer), yet the car can take evasive action when it determines the driver is in danger -- even when a human is at the controls. The IDS manages driving-related functions using a combination of physical controls, voice recognition and gesture capability.

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Nissan's IDS Concept looks markedly more aggressive than today's Leaf.

Chris Paukert/CNET

Much has been made of the need for developments in car-to-car communications on the road to autonomy, but with the IDS Concept, Nissan envisions that self-driving vehicles will also need to directly address pedestrians. In this case, the IDS includes an exterior-facing display on the backside of the instrument panel that can show messages like "After you" to passersby. "This natural, harmonious system of communication signals a new future with cars," Nissan said.

This carbon-fiber-bodied show car likely provides some future visual cues for the next-generation Leaf as well, including boomerang-shaped tail lamps (which have become a Nissan hallmark), broader shoulders and more pronounced front fenders. Motor show-friendly touches like suicide rear doors and four floating individual seats (that cant inward to encourage conversations when in autonomous mode) will almost certainly not make it to production.

While additional powertrain specifics for the IDS concept haven't been disclosed, with a battery offering twice the capacity of today's most capable Leaf, total range would likely double the 107 miles of the recently announced 2016 production model.