(Pocket-lint) - Far from some kind of bowel disease, or a Conservative Minister's initials, Nissan's IDS stands for Intelligent Driving System. The concept car shown at the Tokyo Motor Show won't make production but it does preview two things: first, it's a showcase for Nissan's leadership in autonomous driving cars; second, it also gives us hints as to the shape of the next Leaf.
The IDS is an all-electric concept, but it's made from a carbon-fibre body shell, which means it's exceptionally light – and allows those suicide doors to be a potential reality should Nissan want them to be. A hatchback, with a fast roofline – it has shades of coupe from some angles and is far more chiselled and well-defined than the guppy-fish that is today's Leaf.
Nissan talked openly at the Tokyo show about how some of the technology contained here would make the next Leaf – expect that carbon shell to be one thing – as it lightens the entire car and means it should go further on one battery charge than today's 120 miles maximum.
That carbon-fibre shell permits some nice details on the IDS concept too. Check out the see-through A-pillars for improved visibility, and the flat floor which makes the interior more lounge like – all the better for when you're being driven, rather than driving.
Which brings us to the real story of the IDS: its autonomous driving capabilities. With Tesla's Autopilot now a reality, and both Google and Apple waiting in the wings, it's Nissan and Mercedes that are leading the push for autonomous driving cars amongst the existing car manufacturers. While Mercedes's concept in Tokyo was a mini-van like thing which (bizarrely) didn't have an interior, Nissan showed some really clever ideas for how we're going to all be transitioned to an era of cars that can drive themselves.
On the outside the IDS has a ribbon of lights running up the edge of the bonnet and around the window line, which is in fact a proximity sensor. The car changes the colour and array of this light depending on what it's sensing around it. It may seem fanciful, but we like the idea of a car's design communicating somehow and showing what's it's "seeing".
But inside the four-seat cabin is where the real clever stuff happens. Imagine you're driving through the countryside. You've got a small little steering wheel that's more like a computer-games controller (given it's not actually round) in your hands, ahead of which, tipped on its end is some kind of wedged-shaped device, while on the end section there's a small display telling you about speed, range, and so forth.
Now imagine you join a motorway. Hit the "pilot" button on the side of the steering wheel and the top of the dashboard opens up suddenly – all Bond-like – and a huge, cross-car flat screen rises up. Meanwhile, that wedge-shaped thing that's been displaying basic info until now, starts to pivot forward through 90-degrees to become a small portrait screen. As this happens, the steering wheel folds itself away and slides under the dashboard, and an armrest unfolds itself by your seat.
When it's all done, the screen gains a little happy face, all Wall-E-like, which blinks and winks at you. And your seat reclines slightly, turning into the car by a few degrees, making it easier to talk to your passenger. Or to put your feet up and slippers on.
Want to drive again – simply hit the Nissan badge on the column under the screen. It's that simple.
What we liked about this approach is that there's a clear division between autonomous and driving modes. See it just once and you instantly get how to use it. No question of "am I or is the car in control?" which is currently a bit of an issue for people designing semi-autonomous vehicles.
Except to be able to buy this tech for real in the next Leaf, or in any Nissan product within the next five years, is not very likely. Sure, Nissan was ferrying journalists around Tokyo in a Leaf that could already drive itself, but it's not quite at Wall-E-equipped levels just yet.
Driverless cars are coming. And judging by the IDS concept from Nissan, we now can't wait to try one. Very futuristic, very Tokyo.