While most carmakers attempt to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles by shedding weight, improving aerodynamics or downsizing engines, Nissan is taking a slightly different approach by conditioning motorists to drive more conservatively. Nissan unveiled today a new device called the ECO Pedal that works by activating a counter ‘push-back’ force on the accelerator pedal every time the driver puts his or her foot down.

An eco-driving indicator integrated into the instrument panel then feeds further information to the driver with real-time fuel consumption levels to help improve their driving behavior. The system uses data such as the rate of fuel consumption and transmission efficiency during acceleration and cruising to calculate the optimum acceleration rate. When the driver exerts "excess" pressure on the accelerator, the system counteracts with the pedal push-back force.

Nissan claims the system can improve fuel efficiency by approximately 5-10% depending on driving conditions and plans to commercialize it as early as next year.

Nissan has been careful to allow drivers to disable the system should they choose so. Not only can these ‘helpful’ aids be annoying for drivers, they can also have the adverse effect of being a distraction. Other prime examples include the Opel Insignia’s new dual-function front camera system, which is designed to read passing speed limit and no-overtaking signs. Then there’s the lane departure and blind-spot warning systems, some of which can even make steering wheel adjustments on their own.