Emerging Tech

Most futuristic product of CES 2011: GM en-v scooter/car

The Consumer Electronics Show is about the future and General Motors gave us an interesting peek at an electronic vehicle that could be the future of crowded urban areas.

One of the things that I look for every year at the Consumer Electronics Show is the company that's not afraid to look ahead a few years and show us a product that -- even though it may be little more than a concept or demo -- gives us a peek at the future. The company that offered the best example of that at CES 2011 was General Motors. Yes, that General Motors.

GM showed off a little electric vehicle called the "en-v" that I think of as a mix between a Segway and a Smart Car. This product is being designed for urban areas a decade from now. It can get up to highway speeds while joining up with other vehicles like it to form a train that can make much more efficient use of the roads.

GM had a working prototype at CES and my colleague Brian Cooley from CNET has a three-minute demo that you can watch in the video below:

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

35 comments
rob07601
rob07601

Seeing the blue and silver model reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. "Open the Pod Bay door, HAL" "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that". Aside from Sci-fi movies, and the super villains' secret underground base in James Bond movies, I don't see it being practical for anything away from a golf course community, and they already drive golf carts that are roomier with more cargo capacity. But that's why it's a "concept", somebody will be inspired to adapt elements of the design for real cars.

Toirleach
Toirleach

Not much between this and the Sinclair C5 and that was released in 1985. I'm still not sure that the world is ready for it even still. It might go down well in several of the large asian cities which I'm sure GM will have their eye on. Will there be one million en-v's in Beijing? :)

walshlg
walshlg

I'd name it the "death Egg"

chrisjablonski
chrisjablonski

I can only see being blasted into the next universe by an out of control semi

JonnyDee
JonnyDee

it does nor eun the demo for me :-(

gollumph3
gollumph3

Just the next stage forward from Sir Clive Sinclair's C5 of the '80's nothing too innovative there.

katosm2u
katosm2u

The GM scooter-car might be an ingenious invention to save parking space, increase traffic maneuverability in big cities and most important save gas by using electric power but it is might be vulnerable on highways. Can you imagine driving it on an interstate route at 60mph parallel to other cars including semis?I would not do it. Cheers!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Especially if there's going to be (in the future) a widely used standard of compatibility. But I am concerned about the need to follow the lead of an idiot, or not being able to tell beforehand if this train or that train is led by one. Letting them hook up and go on a raised rail with autopilot, that'd be interesting. Someone suggested something like that for Copenhagen about twenty years ago, but it never left the drawing board, as far as I know.

dogknees
dogknees

I just don't see where these make sense. If it's a pedestrian area like a mall, then people walking aren't going to get out of their way, so no gain there. If it's on the road, they have to compete with normal vehicles in normal lanes at normal speeds. They're like "banana buggies", they are really cool, but never made it as a practical vehicle. There are a few niche markets, but nothing major.

Mad Mole
Mad Mole

The market for these vehicles is perceived rather than existing. My understanding is that in the next 30 years or so something like 80% of the planets population will live in cities. With the increase un urban density and therefore volume of vehicles there's an acknowledged need to make more suitable transport. This is one vision of that future. Take this type of vehicle operated in a Minority Report controlled environment between destinations with free-to roam at either end. Control all vehicles in this way to maintain safety (or operate heavy good separately) and you have a reshaped urban environment. 100% practical? Not yet but certainly one thought provoking attempt at making sure GM is still viable in 30+ years time.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I didn't realize you guys had done some coverage of the en-v (for others reading this, SmartPlanet is a sister site of TechRepublic). Pretty interesting stuff from GM.

turbinepilot
turbinepilot

Being a Wisconsin resident I'm always concerned how a vehicle will handle snow and ice. I suspect the tiny en-v will get easily bogged down if there's a couple of inches of snow on the road making it a 3-season vehicle at best.

frances
frances

I would really hate to see the result of a mix-up between the GM en-v and a semi. I saw what happened when a Smart Car hit the side of a school bus...OUCH.

Snuffy.
Snuffy.

Is it just me or do these things remind you of a Dalek, too? If I had one, I would definitely reprogram the horn to say "Exterminate!" Seriously, though, highway speeds in a plastic eggshell? I hope each one comes with an organ donor card. - Snuffy -

Realvdude
Realvdude

Here in the Big D, these kinds of things have been talked about for at least 40 years. What will this look like with needed features, cooling/heating, minimal storage and colision safety features that will be government mandated, like running lights. These won't be viable in any area that gets snow; still I could see them in use with a rail transportation system for commuting. Drive down to your local train depot and onto a carrier, providing power for cooling/heating and charging, during your train commute, then you drive off and head for work. Your cars RFID reports your railpass, so they don't even need conductors.

dayen
dayen

the egg death machine (death trap) will not be because we will have war before that and people will die in droves goverments will fall they won't be enogh food people will strave or kill others for food if 80% of the people live in cities we can't grow enough food so war civil or other I will be dead before that I am old so hold on to the post see if I am right

JCitizen
JCitizen

and I didn't see it either. Maybe the Smart Planet guys need to get their act together and get the information out there! X-(

Slayer_
Slayer_

Being a Manitoba where minus 40C and colder are normal. If electric cars have no hope, how can this En v survive?

Slayer_
Slayer_

It was like punting a ball out of the way. The roof was collapsed into the seats and sheered off by the front bumper of the rover. Basically you would not survive, your body would get cut in half.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I don't think that's exactly how it goes... size is not a parameter of safety... other things are, which may affect size, but size itself is nothing.

ktrjones12
ktrjones12

Of course if everyone had to go out and get a cheap car accessory cert on their license they may respect the roads and others on the road bit more. Maybe but probably not.

andrew.nusca
andrew.nusca

Duly noted! You're not the only one who has expressed this, so one of our biggest priorities in 2011 is making sure your hear about all the cool stuff we cover. Do you subscribe to either of the SmartPlanet newsletters?

JCitizen
JCitizen

massive than a train of these things. In [i]Scientific American[/i] I read the study that started this thinking and it made sense. Vehicles would line up depending on usage and destination, but be connected head and tail just like a train; only the head unit would supply power. The main public transport system would track which ones are next to take turns providing the power, to keep it all equal. Individual modules with a different destinations would uncouple and recouple with groups going the same general direction/area. Eventually all modules would break off to go to destinations individually, but only after reaching a point where there are none in the pack that aren't reaching the same point. The mathematicians dreamed all of this up comparing models of public transport to see which would be the most efficient and need the least amount of public money to develop, save as much energy as possible, etc. It makes sense really. Since D.A.R.P.A. already helped develop autonomous systems, and Google has already fielded them successfully, it really is a no brainer. All non automatic traffic, will be illegal in the near future for large metropolitan centers. The beauty of it is, the infrastructure is already here, just not used correctly. Taxpayers would not pay for vehicles, we would eagerly buy them to save money on fuel. A little car like that would only be for going to work, recreation, or light shopping. Which is what most folks do in the inner city anyway. (To clarify - I mean taxpayers would not buy entire systems like light rail, or tramway trains, etc.) We could still afford our big methanol powered SUV for everything else! ;)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

the best safety is in not colliding at all. And SUVs don't have any advantages in that department.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You have provided only pseudopsientific babble, so far. Dumbass.

jmackeyiii
jmackeyiii

size is not a parameter of safety. -False it is a parameter but size itself is nothing. -False size itself is a parameter, and therefore cannot be nothing. actually nothing can be nothing, size has to be something. exactly who/what is size a weakness for. this is not a discussion about biggest loser or about gas mileage. Safety that is designed in takes into account size which is the amount of space used to accomplish the safest mode of transportation. The EN-v is not designed with the highest safety protocol, it's purpose and design are different.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Masses handle. Most of the [i]Light Trucks[/i] that pass as 4 X 4 or so on are not required to meet the same standards in Passive Safety as the cars so they don't. They don't have anywhere near as good an Active Safety Rating either because they where never designed for that section of the market. They where intended as Work Vehicles and have been adapted to something else taking advantage of the rules not covering them. Hence the tendency for the Light Trucks to Roll Over at some insanely slow speeds and be a bigger danger to their occupants than a small city car could ever be. Doesn't matter if you feel safe in the big Tank the fact that it kills you going round a reverse camber corner at 5 MPH rolls and spits the occupants out through where the Front Screen used to be before squashing them is what is important here. ;) Crumple Zones and Seat Belts are all Passive Safety which is Bolt on after design. Active Safety is started at the beginning of the design process and always costs more but results in a better handling easier to control vehicle. Think the DAF Trucks that used to be used in the Paris Dakar. Now they where some seriously scary vehicles but extremely fast. :0 Col

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

"Further, physically larger vehicles will have bigger crumple zones thereby further reducing impact forces felt by the occupants" Crumple zones are a product of the structures involved. That's one of the features that increases safety, and which affects size. On the other hand. Given that most lethal collisions are between a car and a large immobile object (a tree, bridge support, etc.) the relativity is often irrelevant. Assuming equal strength of structure (which is not a factor of mass, but of material strength and construction), a bigger, heavier structure will fare proportionally worse than a lighter one in a collision with an immovable. A greater amount of force, affecting the same area of structure, will do more damage. Besides, all the big-car-drivers I've seen have been incompetent ass-wholes who take unnecesary risks. Don't be that guy. If mother nature doesn't kill him, I will ;)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I can find a million BIG ASS cars that are no safer than a smaller, better designed car. I wrote that there are things that factor into safety that affect size (i.e. some safty-increasing constructions require more space than the bare minimum will allow). But size in it self is a weakness. Big does not equal structurally resilient.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Thats why my winter car is a nice big 96 Lumina Sadan. Nice and heavy with a large engine in the front and a long hood and a high roof for those rollovers.

jmackeyiii
jmackeyiii

saying size doesn't matter is ridiculous. This is a statement that comes from one that has never been in an accident. In the future which some think that magically will happen tomorrow, there won't be any morons driving recklessly. I hate to break it to those people, there is no such thing as magic, no matter how many products Steve Jobs labels that. Like tomorrow when we wake up it is going to be a real life version of the Jetsons on the way to work. The infrastructure changes are a long way away. And to bring to everyones attention there are some very compact models out there that are only a little over twice as large as the EN-v. There still has been no major adjustments in the way we view transportation and roadways. The EN-v is awesome, I will get one when practical. I would not enjoy driving it in Atlanta right now. Size will always matter especially when soccer mom is driving an expedition full of bratty kids and txting while talking on her bluetooth enabled headset. It is like some people live in a cave, have you not seen any of the mayhem commercials. All of them are on youtube.

turbinepilot
turbinepilot

In automobiles size is roughly correlated to mass. The laws of Physics dictate that when two objects collide the less massive object will undergo the greatest change in speed and direction thereby subjecting the occupants to greater forces. The more massive object will tend to maintain its original speed and direction thereby subjecting the occupants to smaller forces. Further, physically larger vehicles will have bigger crumple zones thereby further reducing impact forces felt by the occupants. If both vehicles are of roughly the same mass the resulting impact forces will be roughly even for each vehicle. But, if one vehicle is larger than the other, the smaller vehicle will fare worse. Until all vehicles on the road are of equal size I'll stick with driving the biggest, heaviest thing I can affort.

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