Only in Japan: The Best Technologies You Can't Buy

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Connected Cars

In Japan, car navigation systems have been a must-have accessory in automobiles for years. Streets in cities like Tokyo often don't have names, so a navigation system can really save you time. But the latest systems, offered by companies like Nissan, come with something extra.

Hook your navigation system to your cell phone, and you have a connection through which you can get the latest road and traffic data. The navigation system already knows where the nearest gas station is, but with the network link it can also tell you where the cheapest station is, thanks to daily updates on gas prices.

When you're driving, the phone can connect you to an operator who will help you on your journey and even remotely reprogram your navigation system so that you never have to take your hands off the wheel.

About 10 percent of streets are covered with sensors that provide information on traffic. Nissan is experimenting with a new service that collects data about the roads you've driven and the speeds you've achieved, and feeds it to a central computer that adds the information to the traffic database for a more complete picture of jams.

Round View Monitor four-camera auto safety system used in Japan.
High-tech is also being employed in car safety systems like the Round View Monitor. The video from four cameras around the vehicle is processed and brought together into a single image so that you get the illusion of seeing your car from above. It makes backing into tight spaces really easy and is a big-step beyond the single cameras now found on some large cars and trucks.

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