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The month in tech: Nissan fixes eye on the future

Nissan 3E

(Nissan North America)

A monthly roundup of the latest car technology news.

Nissan shifts towards wearable tech, again

The Japanese automaker teased enthusiasts with a rather curious piece of wearable technology. A promotional video depicts a man wearing Google Glass-like specs called 3E, a new technology that officially debuted at the 2013 Tokyo motor show.

The concept glasses are intended to demonstrate how augmented reality might be used to display vehicle information to a driver. Some reporters at the motor show were permitted to try the 3E glasses, which relayed performance and technology statistics over live footage of Nissan vehicles in motion. It is not the company's first foray into wearable tech; Nissan showed a “smart watch” for drivers in September at the Frankfurt motor show.

US says it will regulate mobile devices in vehicles

(General Motors)

The US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it will reissue new voluntary mobile device guidelines for major automakers operating in the country. In a congressional hearing earlier this month, NHTSA director David Strickland said the agency had the authority to regulate mobile devices in vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The new regulations, though technically still voluntary, could help automakers strike a balance between providing drivers with high-tech options, while maintaining safety standards and avoiding distraction-causing features.

A budding trust of autonomous cars?

(Nissan North America)

A recent survey by online insurance retailer CarInsurance.com indicated  that one in five drivers would trust a fully autonomous vehicle for their driving needs. A full 90% of the 2,000 respondents would consider purchasing an autonomous vehicle if doing so would cause their insurance premiums to drop, the survey authors noted.

But it's not all good news for would-be autonomous vehicle makers. Around 64% of respondents said self-driving cars cannot make decisions as well as humans and 75% said they can drive better than a computer ever could. Speaking of…

Mazda automated test drive goes awry

(Mazda USA)

A Mazda CX-5 SUV drove into a barrier during a test drive in the automaker’s native Japan while a customer was testing a semi-autonomous drive feature. According to Bloomberg News, the driver was using the car’s automated braking system – called Smart City Brake Support – when the vehicle crashed into a barrier, injuring both the customer and a salesman. Though drivers can disengage the automatic braking system, Mazda and local authorities have not said whether the system was turned off at the time of the crash.

At MIT, viruses build a better battery

(Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) added a genetically modified virus to a lithium-air battery to increase its charging and discharging cycles. The benign virus was used to increase the surface area of the battery's “nanowires”, which act as the unit’s electrodes. Lithium-air batteries have some advantages over the currently popular lithium-ion batteries because they can store two to three times more power per the same amount of weight – a potential breakthrough for battery-electric cars, which currently lug around weight-intensive lithium-ion or nickel metal hydride packs.

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