Nissan Leaf’s Neat Mass Feedback Trick
By Rick Moss
In mid-December, Nissan’s first all-electric Leaf vehicles hit
the streets of San Francisco, but it took a couple of weeks before someone
noticed an interesting interactive feature built into the eco-friendly compact
car’s Carwings tracking system. Apparently, all Leafs are able to not
only continually monitor fuel efficiency via the Carwings telematics system
but also compare and rank each car’s performance relative to the entire Leaf
community of drivers — planet-wide.
Carwings wireless technology (similar in
ways to OnStar) was awarded a 2008 prize by Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources
and Energy for its contribution to fuel savings. In Japan, the system has been
combining historical data on traffic patterns with real-time traffic reports
to plot commutes accomplished at a higher average speed with fewer fuel-consuming
changes in acceleration.
The data presented on the Carwings seven-inch
screen can be of critical interest, such as the vehicle’s position on a map
relative to reachable charging stations. The system documents the driver’s
energy efficiency, and this is where it can be said to play into the more "cultish" aspect
of green consumerism, displaying daily, monthly and annual reports of distances
traveled; total and average energy consumption, etc.
But where Carwings is
drawing attention is in the way it is uploading the individual drivers’ data
sets to a central server so that overall comparisons can be made and fed back.
Drivers’ efficiency ratings are ranked vis-à-vis
other Leaf drivers or — if you’re so inclined — drivers are placed into a fuel
efficiency competition with other drivers. Those drivers scoring highest see
a platinum trophy icon appear on their Carwings control centers — or gold,
silver or bronze, depending on ranking.
In its report on this development, Mashable referred
to this neat feedback mechanism as "crowdsourcing." The term has
been used in marketing camps more commonly for mass idea gathering and decision
making, such as in the successful Doritos Super Bowl ad contest of last year
in which amateurs competed for a $1 million prize and the winner was chosen
via real-time testing as it aired. Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as "outsourcing
tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined,
large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call," which
seems to make the Carwings system a bit of a stretch in this regard.
to the point, perhaps, the Carwings system — within a closed community of
consumers who share a common interest — adds an effective layer of feedback
with potential to enrich the user experience. The example is more akin to online
gaming in which users get real-time responses from other players. Over time,
based on the richness of the experience, gamers become highly community-loyal,
an attribute that would certainly be of interest to many consumer product marketers.
With wireless technology and data gathering capabilities being integrated into
a broad range of appliances, digital media devices and other consumer products,
it seems that other opportunities for adding feedback layering may follow.
Discussion Questions: What do you think about the Nissan Leaf/Carwings
fuel efficiency competition? Do you see opportunities to aggregate and feed
data back to consumers in ways that will improve or enliven their user experiences?
Leaf Uses Crowdsourcing to Enhance Fuel Economy – Mashable
- Nissan Carwings telematics system gets environmental award in Japan –AutoblogGreen
- First Nissan Leaf owner drives away happy – Tecc