Nissan Leaf’s Neat Mass Feedback Trick

Dec 29, 2010

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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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6 Comments on "Nissan Leaf’s Neat Mass Feedback Trick"

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Ryan Mathews
11 years 4 months ago

On the plus side — it plays to the emotional heartstrings of its core audience.

On the minus side, you drive the way you drive and that has a lot to do with fuel efficiency. So, Nissan runs a very slight risk of making loyal customers feel like inferior drivers.

Max Goldberg
11 years 4 months ago

Consumers love to play games. This game encourages efficiency. As long as one can opt out of being personally identified, it makes sense to use the program to track efficiency and find better, less time-consuming ways to move around town.

Mel Kleiman
11 years 4 months ago

Big Brother takes another step forward. How much more is someone going to know about who you are, what you are doing, and where you are going, without you knowing about it?

I would love the technology as long as it comes with an on and off switch and I had some type of guarantee that the switch worked.

Jesse Rooney
Jesse Rooney
11 years 4 months ago

Offering competitive comparisons between consumers is a really good idea for Nissan. While the relative differences between drivers may be minor, the comparisons nonetheless create a shared sense of community between consumers. Since many early adopters will already consider themselves as part of a ecological conscious community, Carwing’s system should allow Nissan to further cement a sense of belonging among its consumers.

Compare this with the achievement system introduced by Microsoft with their Xbox 360 video game platform. Microsoft offers achievement points to consumers who perform a variety of optional tasks or challenges when playing video games. While initially poo-pooed by many industry watchers when it was first introduced, the achievement points don’t do anything other than offer a comparison with other users, achievements were readily adopted by consumers as a value-added asset. Indeed, many companies within the video game industry have subsequently adopted similar systems, including Microsoft rival Sony.

Gordon Arnold
11 years 4 months ago
My observation is that Americans are very concerned about the economy of operating their vehicles and this feeling increases or decreases exponentially with the present day price of oil. The same consumers are less trusting in the reporting methods provided by the manufacturers or the government. Live feed back from the consumer market will provide for better consumer response to the information given to them. The question of how the consumer will respond is still open to discussion and of course sales results. Another example of information that stimulates open response from qualified buyers is loaded cost of ownership shown in time and miles. Yet nothing outstrips the cost of fuel. This is especially true with the vast majority of consumers that want and enjoy “power.” There are distinctly different expressions of power like “Mustang and Corvette,” “F Series and GMC” and “Explorer and Hummer” just to name a few. But the enthusiasm and sales results continue to set those interested in power as the main course of the market. What is interesting is to… Read more »
Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
11 years 4 months ago

Overload, overload, overload… Paradox of choice. Who has this much time on their hands?


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