A great deal of energy and effort is being devoted to future generations of passenger cars, with Japanese manufacturers in the forefront of leaner and greener engine technology and other efforts to reduce the impact that vehicles have on the environment.

Those same firms are also applying their minds to making the driving experience as pleasant - and safe - as possible.

On Thursday, Nissan Motor Co. unveiled a new "Health and Well-Being" concept that is designed to make the in-car environment as comfortable as possible for both the driver and passengers.

The three primary new developments are an improved driver's seat, an upgraded climate control system and a rapid-action seat heater, which will be particularly welcome in colder climes.

Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co. also have the driver in mind with the introduction of systems that automatically reduce speed when they detect another car in the vicinity, while Fuji Heavy Industries, which builds the Legacy saloon, is installing its EyeSight automatic braking system that takes over from the driver when it senses danger.

Nissan has similar safety features built-in to its vehicles - but is clearly trying to pamper its customers as well.

"The basic aim of the 'Health and Well-Being' concept is to help reduce the stress and fatigue of drivers and passengers, providing body and mind with the necessary comfort for the optimum driving experience," Nissan said.

To achieve that aim, it is designing interiors that will ensure a comfortable posture and thermal environment to help improve blood circulation - reducing the likelihood of complaints linked to deep vein thrombosis on longer journeys - and better cabin air quality.

Other innovations include the new "intelligent control display" that has been installed in the new Juke and the "Forest AC" air conditioning system - designed to replicate the refreshing breezes and aroma of woodland - aboard the Infiniti M and Fuga models.

New vehicles are also being fitted with climate control systems that deliver highly concentrated Plasmacluster Ions, which help moisturize the skin, reduce airborne bacteria and mold and control odors. A grape polyphenol air filter reduces allergens within the car, while other improvements have been made to the textures of interior materials.

JR

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