#CES2011 General Motors EN-V Demo

Written by Cameron Wright. Posted in Auto, Featured, First Impression, Hands-On, Tech News

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While we were at the Consumer Electronics Show I was able to go for a test ride in a General Motors EN-V (Electric Networked Vehicle). GM created these as a possible answer to a car of the future, in very specific markets. These are designed for Urban Areas and most likely would not be used on the road, at least not US roads. The EN-V can communicate autonomously with other EN-V’s as well as sense when there is an object in it’s way. With zero input from the driver it can try to get around the obstacle or even come to a complete stop. GM is hoping to be able to facilitate communication between other EN-V operators, allowing them and their vehicles to pass on information amongst one another.



The EN-V is outfitted with a number of technologies that will help keep people inside and out safe: Some of the key technologies at work in the EN-V include: “dynamic stabilization, which uses an array of angular rate sensors and accelerometers to determine the orientation and motion of the vehicle’s platform.” (Scientific American), Autonomous and Manual driving modes, steering wheel based video chat (remember the EN-V can drive itself), sensors that allow communication between other EN-V’s, a multitude of sensors help it identify obstacles and hazards — and the ability to take the necessary actions to avoid collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians.

Other benefits include: the ability to park 6 EN-V’s in one of todays parking spaces. Electric propulsion instead of burning fossil fuels. The EN-V’s wireless communication system, “also allows it to perform something GM’s calling “platooning,” basically forming an autonomous convoy with other EN-Vs. The automation doesn’t stop there, as it’s also able to park and retrieve itself without the help of a driver. You can control its parking with a smartphone or a laptop.” PopSci



Last March Scientific American posted about the EN-V on their blog explaining a bit of the history of the vehicle.

“Although the EN-V is currently only a concept vehicle, GM’s goal is to equip them with sensors for autonomous functioning—helping drivers park and even avoid collisions. The vehicles are also expected to include systems that allow drivers to talk to other EN-V drivers while on the road. The EN-V is powered by lithium ion batteries that can last up to 40 kilometers between charges, and the vehicle is designed to be plugged into a standard wall outlet for recharging.”

Nearly a year prior to the above article Scientific American wrote about Project PUMA describing the vehicle this way,

“PUMA, which exists only in prototype, resembles a golf cart cut in half: it’s a two-seater that stands upright thanks to dynamic stabilization, which uses an array of angular rate sensors and accelerometers to determine the orientation and motion of the vehicle’s platform.”

The EN-V is an evolution of Project PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) which was a joint venture between GM and Segway. Clearly in the two plus years that were spent working on the newer vehicles there have been some pretty radical exterior changes. Instead of the very utilitarian design of PUMA there are the sleek flowing lines of the EN-V. There is now an enclosed space and many additional electronics and safety features built in to the EN-V.



The ride inside the EN-V was really quite comfortable. Although it is disconcerting knowing that below you there are only two wheels which are side-by-side instead of the traditional two-wheeled design (Motorcycles/Bicycles). The dynamic stability system responds to the shifting of your weight and did not overreact to the shifting of our weight. The controls for the EN-V were simple, either a route can be preprogrammed or manually chosen. The steering mechanism (it was not really a steering wheel) seemed quite intuitive. Most inputs were carried out with just the slightest twist of the wrists. If the driver lets go of the steering wheel the EN-V will gently roll to a stop. If something were to jump in front of the vehicle it would stop in a more abrupt manner.

The fit and finish of the concept was quite impressive. It felt like GM could easily have these ready to ship to some organizations or local governments within a year or two. There was talk of the hope that a company such as Disney might decide to lease, purchase, or test these at one of the resorts. I would love to see this happen. It would be great to see a large organization such as Disney take a chance on technologies like this. If a few large groups purchased these and found them to be highly beneficial then perhaps GM would be more inclined to make the decision to push for an actual launch of similar vehicles.

These other publications went for a spin in the EN-V as well, read their thoughts below.

Road & Track

Wired

PopSci

Car and Driver

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About Cameron Wright

My background begins with writing. I wrote from age 12 – 27 daily. Next came my love for computers and tech. This has now morphed into a love of Mobile (primarily Android) but all tech fills me with joy. I am also a volunteer with the Southeastern Pa Chapter of the Red Cross. A dad to be, with a beautiful fiancee.

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