I’ve had quite a few exciting adventures this summer. So many that I am having a difficult time keeping up with this blog. But I want to share one story because it contained one of those moments I love about covering high-tech: sitting around a table with very smart people dreaming up the future. And this moment happened in a place many have come to think of as part of the history of technology but – maybe – not its future: General Motors in Detroit.
I was invited, along with a group of journalists and bloggers, to drive some innovative, affordable, and fun cars coming out of Motor City this year. (More on that later.) But I stayed an extra day after the new-car festivities to see some ideas that are still on the drawing board in the labs at GM.
It was super exciting chatting with the creators of GM’s concept car the En-V because thinking up this vehicle was more of a demonstration of how these automotive brains envision the future than a vehicle you can expect to see on the streets anytime soon. The future they imagine is one that provides safe and convenient mobility not only to adults with a driver’s license but also to those who are currently too young or too old to drive. And changing transportation so that it fits the cities we live in now – and will occupy in the future – requires some incredible leaps in imagination. GM has arrived at a concept vehicle that is not only small and very green but that can self-navigate, fit inside other modes of transportation, park in our houses and apartment buildings, and entertain or make us productive while we travel in them.
The En-V is more than a dream of course. It is so solid that I actually got to sit inside and drive it. But it is meant to illustrate the dreams of these brilliant engineers: small, portable, cars capable of navigating themselves so that the occupants can do video conferences, watch movies, and communicate with the other cars on the road. If accidents don’t happen – because the automobiles communicate with each other to prevent them – then the cars can be very personal and portable. Click on the video above to see the EnV in action. And if you get hooked by this idea – as I did – you can order a copy of Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century. It is written by a team that includes the very charming and fascinating Chris Borroni-Bird, who led this thrilling conversation I was lucky enough to be part of at GM.
Oh, since I knew you would ask me, I asked Borroni-Bird when he thought we would see flying cars. He laughed and said, “I don’t see that as a workable idea.” This wasÂ disappointing. But I was consoled by the idea that my (future) self-propelled car could take the kids to soccer practice without me.