The city of the future is going to be “crowded, dirty, and resource-constrained,” said Stephen J. Girsky, a vice president of GM, at CityLab, an event in Battery Park City earlier today. And that means everyone’s gonna want one of GM’s new Electric Networked Vehicles, or EN-V.
According to Girsky, GM’s vision of the zero-emission, autonomous, wirelessly connected “car” of tomorrow is already the envy of transportation planners and/or people who want to drive cars that look like Daft Punk helmets. It “performed daily” during the Shanghai World Expo way back in 2010 — which shows how long the EN-V has been GM’s vision of the future — where it came in three versions, named Jiao, Xiao and Miao (NO JOKE).
Hopefully, it also comes in different colours than the Stormtrooper White that sat alone on the red carpet at today’s event. I much prefer the earlier version in Pac-Man Yellow with late ’70s pinstripes.
Because cars are parked at least 90 per cent of the time, Girsky explained, that’s where GM started with their design process. This little guy — I mean, would you just look at that adorable wisp of a car? — not only has a microscopic parking footprint, it’s stackable, meaning you can cram a bunch of them into a single parking space.
OK, so it’s smaller than a Smart Car, but the innovation here is that the EN-V is networked. It drives using front-mounted ultrasonic and vision systems, as well as a roof-mounted GPS and wireless antenna, to help avoid collisions. This technology should also help reduce the number of accidents and improve traffic flow in general. I assume you can tell it where to go using this giant tablet in the center console, which, since you don’t have to drive, you can also use to watch your favourite AT-ST scene in Return of the Jedi.
Of course, the real beauty of the EN-V is that these cars probably won’t belong to anyone. Imagine these babies lined up in a charging station like a bike-sharing kiosk so you can check one out on your way home from work. Or maybe you dial one up and it drives over to your house to pick you up when when you need it. Then, after it calculates your route, it asks you if you’d mind picking up another passenger along the way.
Suddenly, these little pod cars become a form of public-private transit. Taxis are no longer necessary.
And that’s the real question here. GM calls the EN-V “a new class of personal urban mobility.” It seems inevitable we’ll have to give up our clunky, gas-powered, human-navigated personal vehicles, at least eventually. Will the EN-V become the preferred intermediary mode of transportation somewhere between a bike and a bus? Would you “drive” one?