Innovation springs from many places, according to the designers of the Nissan Actic concept vehicle, which made its world debut at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit – including items as simple as the small, handheld technology devices ranging from key fobs and PDAs to MP3 players and GPS systems.
The Nissan Actic is a "content rich" design exercise created by Nissan Design America, Inc. (NDA) in La Jolla, Calif. The sleek, silver, bullet-shaped Actic, with its flowing body and matching trailer, makes a visionary statement about how vehicle owners will approach technology in the future. In place of traditional content-heavy vehicle control systems that become outdated immediately, Actic's handheld "key fob"-based Information Technology (IT) system allows the user to "grow" the interface with infinite flexibility and updateability.
"Actic's core idea was inspired and influenced by the pace and content of modern life – and a generation of people who find time to pursue multiple passions with zeal, commitment and style," said Tom Semple, president, NDA. "It's designed to reflect the interests and aspirations of its users, adapting to their personalities rather than imposing the vehicle's on them."
Actic provides nearly unlimited opportunities for its users to explore and challenge the relationship between exterior and interior environments and to introduce elements of personalization by projecting video displays on a series of six roof-mounted flat LCD screens.
Other Actic innovations include dual sliding side doors, a "cross trainer"-style wheel and tire design with tread-wrapped 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, and a versatile, matching trailer with inflatable walls that converts to a comfortable sleeping space for three.
A Design for Lives In Transition
"Like its intended audience, Actic defies categorization. Actic is not a crossover, a hybrid or a 'sport utility anything,'" said Semple. "It is a protective capsule enclosing a modern, technically advanced interior with a warm, hand-crafted personality."
Conceived essentially as a new form of entry-level vehicle, the Actic Concept acknowledges a growing group of users who find themselves transitioning from single life to married with small children. While these buyers' vehicle needs might now include making room for items such as child seats and baby strollers, they still enjoy socializing with friends, career-related activities and outdoor adventures.
Actic's physical presence, while bold in shape, evokes a sense of spareness and simplicity – as well as extreme efficiency. Its direct profile and subtly modulated surfacing project an aura of progressive agility, reflecting a response to the romance and reality of contemporary urban life.
Actic's athletic proportions are characterized by long wheelbase and short overhangs, along with extremely wide body and unusually upright greenhouse. The smooth, flowing body form is interrupted only by the grille perforations, allowing for an unbroken expanse of its gorgeous, silver, sky-reflecting surface.
With no B-pillar to interfere, Actic's wide doors provide easy access for friends or activities. The front doors move forward and the rear doors move backwards, like an elevator's, creating open access for passengers and cargo. The Actic's "smart" door handles sense a pass of the hand and present themselves for instant operation.
A rear hatch provides additional access to the wide inner space, while the body itself "floats" on a shock absorber-mounted, protective undersurface that cradles and helps protects the vehicle and its occupants.
A Digital Canvas For Changing Lives
The Actic interior design is based on the idea that its ultimate use and character will come from the needs and personality of its owner. "Actic does not fully come to life until the intelligent key fob is activated," said Semple. "The fob is really a small, highly portable transmitting hard drive onto which the owner has loaded a host of data, preferences, settings and configurations."
Visual information is displayed throughout the interior, whether on the driver-oriented instrumentation panels or on the more ambient overhead flat panel displays. All settings reside within the 100-gigabyte fob – not just standard audio and HVAC preferences but also e-mail and navi settings, and the content that governs and affects mood and ambience.
The sky theater glass paneled roof design includes the overhead display screens that allow endless opportunities for Actic users to play with the relationship between exterior and interior environments with custom video displays.
"Actic lets users introduce elements of personalization that were previously generic – for example changing night to day or a stormy outside setting to a sun-lit sky filtering through leaves," said Semple. "Nissan continues to look at the roof of vehicles as an area for innovation and creativity, like the current Maxima and Quest Skyview glass panel roof."
Seating flexibility is also critical to the Actic target users' lifestyles. The seating system and design theme take an organic, highly functional approach. Three-across modular, stretch fabric-covered seating surrounds the driver with maximum flexibility. The folding seats can be arranged into multiple configurations, with all seats except the driver's able to be staggered to accommodate passengers and cargo of varying sizes. The interior "floats" away from the body side and headliner panels, revealing a visible gap, while the armrests float away from the aluminum door panels. LED track lighting is utilized throughout the interior.
Since Actic is a Nissan, it features a driver-oriented cockpit with analog gauges and paddle shifters. With the middle seats folded down, the seatbacks meet to form a center tunnel complete with a "super center" console.
The bright orange interior provides a striking contrast against the Liquid Silver exterior.
Actic is a response to a new customer mindset, a new way of living in the modern world dense with content. Its highly flexible, modular interior is designed to change and for change.
"We have entered an age of very personal transportation. Actic's users, by bringing their own content to the vehicle, make it their own," said Semple.
Innovative Wheels and Tires
Like the rest of vehicle, the "cross-trainer" wheels and tires are an organic design – created literally to represent "running shoes for cars." Developed in conjunction with Michelin, the tire tread is physically laminated over the 19-inch aluminum-alloy rims, making the tires part of the wheel. "Visually, the integrated tire and wheel treatment makes the rims look larger than their 19 inch size," said Semple.
The tread itself is a waffle-pattern design resembling Michelin's most aggressive motorcycle tires. The tires also feature run-flat construction. Matching wheels and tires are also utilized on the Actic trailer.
A Versatile, Matching Trailer
The Actic Concept also includes a matching trailer, which is designed to symbolize the "on-the-road – off-the-grid" adventure seeking nature of Actic's intended users. "The trailer allows you to leave at a moment's notice or store the accessories of your life with minimal intrusion," said Semple.
The trailer, developed as part of an ongoing relationship between NDA and Airstream, includes an inflatable wall system, turning it into a comfortable space for sleeping three people.
A unique built-in trailer coupling arm is integrated into the aesthetic of the Actic design theme, allowing car and trailer to become one unit.
"Actic is designed to move quickly through life with agility, fluidity and grace. Dense with content, multi-layered, multi-functional and accommodating, it provides the framework for the art that is your life," said Semple. "Free from the constraints of any existing vehicle categories, Actic responds and conforms to the needs, preference and aspirations of the user."