There’s an app on the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder that is changing how I drive.
It’s called Driving Performance, and you find it in the NissanConnect section of the dashboard interface. I’ve never used anything quite like it, although Dodge has a similar Performance Pages app that runs in the touchscreen of their Charger and Challenger cars.
With the Driving Performance app in the Pathfinder, you can find out how much fuel range you have left, which is a standard feature on most cars these days. But it goes much farther. One gauge helps you monitor fuel flow, or how much fuel the car is using. This helped me monitor whether I was punching it too much at stop signs. Another gauge that’s brand new to me (and I’ve tested around 500 cars, but maybe this app was buried in the dash of other Nissan vehicles) shows your steering arc, so if you take a corner way too fast, you’ll know. It could help in more of a track-oriented car like the Nissan GT-R, but in the Pathfinder, it’s an interesting conversation starter. I can see, for the first time, how much arc I’m using on corners I use every day.
The G-force gauge is also interesting. In real time, I’m able to see the actual G-force for corners, when I accelerate quickly, and when I brake. If you monitor the gauge, it can also help with your driving style — you might start to punch it back a bit or not brake as hard. (Fast starts and hard braking are two of the primary reasons why people get into accidents.)
What I like about the gauges is that they are easy to read with a glance, and there are only three of them on the screen at a time. You can flip easily with a swipe to see more gauges.
Of course, data like this in cars has been around for awhile, but it will prove more and more valuable as we enter the age of connected cars and autonomous driving.
You can imagine how that will work. As you drive, the dash could show the state of the stoplight in front of you and flash green when you can go. A yield sign on a tight corner could also pop up in the dash. Europe is more aggressive about making this work in cars — for example, some BMW cars can already read road signs like the speed limit and display them in the HUD. In the U.S., there’s a way to see the speed limit in the nav screen, but it’s based on GPS data.
What comes next? I’m expecting the dashboard to start showing way more information about the state of the vehicle and using way more analytics. That corner up ahead might be one that is particularly dangerous. Other cars can send telematics data and warn you about dangers. In intersections, some Volvo cars already use sensors that can warn you about other vehicles that might broadside you or worse, but in the near future, connected intersections like those already in place in Las Vegas could pop up a warning as well.
Too many of these gauges could become overwhelming for the driver, but we’ll be able to choose which ones we want to see, similar to the Driving Performance app in the Pathfinder. I’m looking forward to seeing more data, which could lead to much safer driving someday.