Nissan’s latest innovation takes the lowly car horn and elevates it to the status of “smart.” The 2013 Altima has a new feature that’s likely to surprise buyers. It’s called Easy-Fill Tire Alert. The car’s tire pressure monitoring system informs drivers when a tire is low on air and then uses the sedan’s horn and hazard lights to confirm that the tire has been filled adequately.
This is a classic use of the Task Unification Technique, one of five in the innovation method called SIT. Task Unification works by taking a component and assigning it an additional job. That component can be an internal resource (in this case, something on or in the car) or an external resource, something in the vicinity of the car, but not within the manufacturer’s control (a passenger, for example). The additional job can be “stolen” from another component or it can be assigned something new.
Auto makers have used this seemingly simple component before for other purposes than just beeping at other drivers. Car horns have been “recruited” to sound off as a burglar alarm, for example. Some models of cars have the horn sound when the car is locked or unlocked. Now, Nissan’s clever innovation assigns the horn the new task of assisting with tire maintenance. Brilliant!
Nissan’s humorous TV commercial to introduce the new feature is brilliant, too:
The “Easy-Fill Tire Alert” system is an all-new control module currently being phased into vehicle redesigns like the all-new 2013 Nissan Altima. First, the vehicle’s tire-pressure warning system alerts a driver to a low tire; and on some models displays the current pressure and tire or tires that require attention on the dashboard display. When alerted, drivers should stop at the nearest gas station to fill the tire with an available air hose. Once air begins flowing into the tire, the vehicle’s four-way flashers come on to confirm the process has started. When the tire hits the appropriate pressure level, the horn then chirps to let drivers know the tire has been properly inflated. If the driver continues to fill the tire with air, the horn honks more aggressively to indicate over inflation. Once air is let out of the tire, the horn chirps once to indicate the correct pressure has been reached.
Just imagine what else a car horn can do. Using Task Unification makes it easy.