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Japan’s carmakers apply talents to world’s problems

The Tokyo motor show has always been futuristic, traditionally showcasing some of the most outlandish car prototypes ever seen. But at this year’s show, it is as if the Japan’s carmakers have taken a turn away from internal rivalry and bickering over who has the most powerful engine or the greatest market share, towards an uncharacteristically broadminded search for solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing mankind.

These days, it seems, it is not so much about how we drive, but instead about how we live our lives. Using technology to help relieve some of life’s most serious situations has particular resonance in natural disaster-prone Japan.

There is little doubt that the earthquake and tsunami in March, and the subsequent nuclear crisis, have also done much to change mindsets here. “It had a huge impact on us,” says Takashi Yamanouchi, chief executive of Mazda. “We’ve learnt a lot.”

‘Out of the box’

As if to illustrate the point, albeit on a tiny scale, Mitsubishi Motors’ president, Osamu Masuko presses a few buttons on a coffeemaker to get the espresso flowing. The coffee machine, although near a number of mains electricity sockets, is instead powered by the batteries in a Mitsubishi van. It is an example of how manufacturers here are working towards a future where cars would be integral parts of broad-based technology solutions that go well beyond simple transport needs. This machine and other could be used during power cuts, for instance – of which Japan has suffered often since electricity rationing was introduced in the spring following the closure of nuclear power plants.

On a larger scale, this sort of thinking could prove revolutionary, according to Mr Masuko.

“We’ll need something that’s so out of the box, something that’s totally new, to protect the Earth and its people,” he insists.

“Without such technology, we cannot win, and we cannot protect the environment.”

Rival Nissan has taken the concept of cars that give as well as receive one stepĀ further, as illustrated by a poster that links its Leaf electric car to a range of household appliances, such as a vacuum cleaner, an iron, a washing machine
and a fridge freezer.

Read full story: BBC News

Category: World News |

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Last updated March 25, 2017 at 5:40 PM
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