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This Nissan Concept Car Brakes for Video Games

The Urge comes with an Xbox 360 and uses the steering wheel and pedals to control play.

December 29, 2005|John O'Dell | By John O'Dell Times Staff Writer

Gentleman, start your video games.

Nissan Motor Co. next month will unveil at Detroit's auto show a concept sports car, called the Urge, equipped with Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 video game system.

When the car is parked, the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals and a 7-inch liquid crystal display screen that drops down from the rearview mirror turn it into a personal video arcade so the driver can play the "Project Gotham Racing 3" game.

The car-racing game, which works only when the Urge is stationary, allows players to virtually speed through the streets of London, Tokyo, Las Vegas and New York and to compete on a German test track.

Nissan designer Bruce Campbell said the car was developed after conducting an Internet survey asking young auto and gaming enthusiasts the kinds of features they would want in their ideal car.

Most of the nearly 2,000 respondents were young males who overwhelmingly wanted "a small, fun-to-drive sports car [with] the technology products they use on a daily basis," said Campbell, vice president of design at Nissan's advanced research and design center in La Jolla.

Installing the latest entertainment gadget on wheels is a staple in the auto business. Car radios date back to the 1920s and in the 1950s Chrysler offered a phonograph under the dashboard that played records. Today, DVD players and MP3 digital music player hookups are found in many vehicles.

In Nissan's latest concept car, the ignition won't work until the owner docks his or her cellphone in a cradle that transmits the phone's identification code to the engine control computer -- so the phone becomes the key.

The lightweight aluminum and carbon-fiber Urge was designed in La Jolla and hand-built by Metal Crafters Inc. in Fountain Valley.

The sleek design was inspired by a racing motorcycle and features a see-through glass hood; narrow, oversize tires and wheels; and bulging, motorcycle-style fenders, Campbell said. The car has an open "T" roof reminiscent of the Pontiac Trans Ams and Chevrolet Camaros of the 1970s, plus a folding canvas cover for rainy days.

Nissan is one of several Japanese carmakers pursuing the youth market.

The company and rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. will introduce competing small cars in the U.S. next year that are expected to start at less than $15,000.

Although Nissan doesn't plan to build anything that looks like the Urge, some of its features could be used on a future youth-oriented sports car, Nissan spokesman Fred Standish said.

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