Some suggestions for Nissan about the LEAF

On the Seattle Nissan LEAF Owner’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/seattlenissanleaf/permalink/517039021660873/, someone invited to a Nissan focus group about the LEAF is soliciting feedback to bring with him, so I wrote up the following with input from Chris.

(Disclosure:  We’ve only had the LEAF for a month and a half so far, with 2,800 miles driven.)

(Suggestions in no particular order)

Driver preferences

  • It would be nice to have more vehicle color choices–not just red, blue, black, grey, and white.
  • It would be nice if the car would remember each driver’s preferences so that it could adjust the chair, steering wheel tilt, and rear-view mirrors automatically for the driver.  This means when my wife and I take turns driving the same car, even if we both are carrying our key fobs, changing who is driving does not require minutes of comfort and safety adjustments before driving can begin.

Scenario:  My wife is annoyed by having to adjust the seat, steering wheel, mirrors, and Bluetooth binding every time she drives the car after I have driven the car.  This happens no less frequently than once per week, because she commutes with the car during the week and I am permitted to drive it during the weekend.

  • It would be nice if the trunk didn’t latch itself so soon after pressing the unlock/open button.

Scenario:  When opening the trunk, it seems to get caught on the latch from time to time…because I don’t always pull up right away.  If I press the button and pull right away in one motion, I am more successful, but if I delay a little between pressing the button and pulling, the trunk won’t open.  Note:  I don’t release the button between pressing it and pulling, even if I delay between pressing and pulling.  I figure that if I continue to hold the button depressed, the latch should remain open, regardless of the amount of time I pause between the two.  If you open the latch on the car door and don’t pull the door open right away, does the door relatch itself?  No?  So why should the trunk?

Menu -> Settings -> Bluetooth Connections

  • When the primary Bluetooth phone/music player is not present in the car, it should not require user interaction (certainly not about 7 clicks) to automatically connect to the next available Bluetooth phone/music player in the list of known Bluetooth devices.  If this feature is already present, I have not been able to get it to work.
  • When explicitly changing from one Bluetooth device to another, it should take much fewer than 7 clicks to achieve this:  Menu -> Settings -> Bluetooth Connections -> Connected Devices -> Handsfree Phone / Audio Player (what if my phone is both?!) -> pick one -> Connect.  It would be nice to shorten this procedure to 3 clicks or less.

Scenario:  My wife’s Windows Phone 8 Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone is the primary Bluetooth phone and audio device.  My Windows Phone 7 Samsung Focus is the secondary phone and audio device.  At first, she set it to bind to her phone.  After the car is bound to her phone, when I drive with her in the car and both of us have our phones, by default the car binds to her phone and plays (resumes) her current playlist automatically.  I then manually instruct the car to connect to my phone to play my music.  When I drive in the car and her phone is not present, I still have to manually instruct the car to use my phone even though it is the only one there.  If the car is able to automatically connect to any phone, why not make it automatically connect to the highest-priority phone that is present?

Leverage driving history to improve range estimates

  • Record and incorporate energy spent on roads already driven to predict battery expenditure on new routes.
  • Similarly, if I am on my daily commute, instead of only using the most recent few seconds of driving to predict my range until empty, use the historical data of my actual energy consumption along the same route.  For example, if I climb a hill near the start of my commute, the estimated distance-until-empty displayed while climbing the hill will be much lower than the estimate displayed at my destination because climbing the hill was only a part of the commute that is not representative of the entire commute.

Scenario:  My wife is the primary LEAF driver.  She commutes about 20 miles each way to work.  Near the start of the commute there is a steep hill.  While climbing this hill, the LEAF estimates her range is 70 miles or less on a nearly full battery.  However, by the time she arrives at work, 17 miles later, the LEAF reports that 65-70 miles remain.  It would be nice if the LEAF would be able to remember the route she takes to work and give a range estimate that is closer to the number it predicts at the end of the route, rather than an estimate solely based on the most recent mile or so of driving.  She hasn’t tried using the stored-route feature to see if that would work because we assume that the turn-by-turn navigation will interrupt the music that she’s listening to, to give directions for a route that she is already familiar with and needs no guidance for.

Make the map easier to navigate

  • I have become accustomed to the more intuitive method of navigating a map on a touch-screen device by pushing the map around with one finger and using two-finger zooming gestures, like with Bing Maps (maps.bing.com), rather than the Web 1.0 method of clicking a position to re-center the map and clicking a zoom in/out button.  Rotating the map should also be more intuitive, responding to a two-finger rotation gesture rather than a mode change followed by a click of a clockwise or counterclockwise button.

Make the map more actionable

  • When displaying charging stations on the map, also show their current status (in use, out of service, one port of two available, L2-only, L1 and L2, DC fast charge, status unknown, private use only, etc.), so that when a choice presents itself, the driver can make an informed choice about which to drive to.

Scenario:  I was low on charge (10 miles or less) near Bellevue Square Mall near Christmas.  BSq is, like most shopping malls, very crowded at this time of year.  There were no parking spots available at the EVSE in the west parking garage, so we went to the EVSE spots in the valet parking area in the east garage.  All but two were in use, but an ICE blocked one of the spots, so only one spot remained.  Had zero spots remained, who knows–just from looking at the map–which of the remaining EVSE in the area were truly available or all in use?

  • When displaying information about a charging station, don’t only list the charging station manufacturer’s customer service phone number, but also include the landlord’s phone number, so that if an ICE is parked in an EV-only spot, a complaint can be lodged with the people who are responsible for the parking spot and are local instead of at a remote call center.

Scenario:  In Bellevue Square Mall’s west garage, all of the EVSE parking spots were occupied.  One of the vehicles was not electric, even though the spots have signs showing that they are for electric vehicles.  Looking up the charging station information from the car’s map showed a phone number, so I called it to report the non-electric vehicle, but was connected with ChargePoint customer support, who couldn’t help, instead of someone more closely connected with the mall itself.

  • Add elevation (topological) information on the map.  In hilly places, this information can be just as useful for planning a route as distance, traffic conditions, and weather conditions.

Scenario:  When low on battery, choosing from available charging stations might depend on knowing more than just how far away it is–knowing whether or not a hill has to be climbed to get there (and how steep it is) can be a tie breaker.

  • Add weather conditions to the map.  E.g. temperature, sunshine, precipitation, wind.  This information can be just as useful as traffic (congestion and road closures) information.  For safety, dangerous road conditions should be avoided.  Knowing where these conditions are can help a driver avoid them.  If this information can be integrated with the routing algorithm just like traffic conditions can, then safer routes can be planned.

Scenario:  I am heading home and have a choice between two routes.  One has reduced visibility due to thick fog and the other does not have this problem.  If I am informed about these weather conditions, I can make the right choice.  If I am not, I might make the wrong choice.

Reduce range anxiety in new ways

  • Show me whether I need to recharge before heading home.  Warn me before I go so far that I cannot return home without recharging.  In other words, let the driver specify a spot (usually home) that the driver wants to remain within range of while out running errands.

Support international text in the UI

Scenario:  My smartphone stores some music playlists which include Japanese music.  The names of the artists, albums, and tracks contain Japanese characters.  It would be nice if the UI font contained Japanese glyphs so that these characters would be displayed correctly.  For example, an album’s track 6 should display as “06.それは風のように”, but instead displays as “06.        ” (zero, six, period, followed by eight spaces).  I understand that this is an edge case because the car is manufactured for the predominantly English-speaking US market, and do appreciate that there is a language setting for…French and Spanish was it?

Augment the limited navigation database with online navigation services

  • When the driver wants to plot a route to a destination and knows the name of the destination (the name of a business) but not the address, the driver should not be forced to wade through a lengthy list of categories to name the business, especially when the category might not actually exist in the list.

Scenario:  I needed to visit the nearest Mud Bay pet store (www.mudbay.us) to pick up pet food for a friend.  I knew roughly where it was, but I did not know the street address, so Menu -> Destination -> Street Address doesn’t help.  Menu -> Destination -> Places -> what? Shopping? -> Pet Stores are not in this list, so I have to go all the way to the bottom to find “Other Shopping” -> By Name -> M -> U -> “D” is not available, so now what? -> Back -> Back -> Back -> By Name -> M -> U -> D -> B gives me three matches:

  • “Place on Mudbay” (Olympia, WA) <– far away and incorrect
  • “Mudbone Audio Productions” (Great Falls, MT) <– ridiculously far away and incorrect
  • “Mudbugs at the Bayou” (Seattle, WA)  <– closest to Bellevue where I was, but still incorrect

Problems:

  • None of these are the business that sells pet food.  Maybe I am spoiled by Bing search.  It would be nice if the navigation computer would take advantage of online services to present search results not stored locally.  Of course the user should be allowed to cancel a search that takes too long.
  • It would be more reasonable to return search results that are within driving range and only bother the user with search results that are further away if the user explicitly asks for them.  Why direct me to Montana while I am in western Washington?

Settings -> Guidance Settings

  • Add a feature similar to “Estimated Time” called “Estimated Range Remaining” at destination and waypoints, so that remaining charge can be estimated at each waypoint.  This feature should also (optionally) report when a route cannot allow a return home without recharging.

Scenario:  I’ve driven somewhere on an errand.  I’d like to add one or two more errands before returning home.  One of those errands, while not draining the battery completely, will take me somewhere from which I cannot make it home without a recharge.  It would be nice for the route planner to warn me about this and offer to find an available charging station along the way to allow me to complete my errands before returning home.

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