Back in 2010, General Motors unveiled the Electric Networked Vehicle (EN-V), a narrow, two-wheeled, two-seat self-balancing low-speed electric vehicle designed for use in heavily congested cities. This June, it showcased the EN-V 2.0, a four-wheeled evolution of the original design, at a special event at the Tianjin Eco-City in China.
This week, General Motors is using the occasion of the 21st Intelligent Transport Systems Conference in Detroit to demonstrate a self-driving version of that same EN-V 2.0 vehicle, along with a slew of other advanced vehicle technologies designed to make the roads of the future safer, less congested, and greener.
Looking more like a bubble than a car, the EN-V 2.0 — wearing a Chevrolet badge — has been built with confined spaces in mind. Instead of a conventional hood, there’s a small snub nose and large windshield, while upward-opening front-hinged doors give access to a spacious interior.
Like the EN-V 2.0 showcased back in June, the self-driving EN-V 2.0 features seating for two adults and a full set of conventional vehicular controls. But while it features the standard steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal, the diminutive EN-V 2.0 also contains a full complement of cameras, lidar sensors and V2X technology to allow the car to see the world around it.
For the uninitiated, V2X technology is a term given to a variety of advanced vehicle technologies which allow a vehicle to not only connect to other vehicles on the road but also interact with pedestrians and infrastructure.
This not only makes it possible for the EN-V 2.0 to know where other vehicles are on the road thanks to vehicle-to-vehicle technology, but also avoid pedestrians, road maintenance staff or other road users fitted with special armbands that communicate their presence to the vehicle.
Combine this with vehicle-to-infrastructure technology which allows stop lights to communicate their status to approaching vehicles, and the technology fitted inside the EN-V 2.0 lays a framework for a future where large queues at stoplights, congestion and slow-moving traffic are a thing of the past.
With a limited speed of 25 mph and a range of 25 miles per charge, the EN-V 2.0 won’t be replacing the family car any time soon, but its existence as a prototype vehicle does open up an exciting future vision of multi-modal transport.
Imagine the scenario: instead of sitting in traffic for an hour every day on your way to work, you drive your plug-in vehicle to the nearest train station or metro stop, plugging in before taking the next available train into the city.
Since your smartphone knows which train you’re on, it automatically arranges for a low-speed, autonomous vehicle like the EN-V 2.0 to meet you off the train, taking you the final few miles to your office. Then, when it’s completed your commute, it heads off for the next job, or goes to charge itself at a specially-designed parking space.
Not only would you avoid the stresses and strains of driving through busy city centre streets, but you’d have more time to relax on your morning commute, leaving you less stressed and more alert for your day.
Doesn’t that sound like a good future? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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