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Mr. Jetson: The car of 2030

January 11, 2011


General Motors, showed off a self-driving car last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The EN-V (pronounced “envy” and short for “Electric Networked Vehicle”) combines two ideas about how to teach cars to drive — using sensors like cameras and sonar to keep the car from hitting pedestrians; and network technology that lets cars talk to each other.

This “car internet” lets the cars link up wirelessly and follow one another in a sort of wirelessly linked train. If one EN-V needed to pull out of the line, it could.

The pod-like cars, which are just prototypes for now (GM says they could be on the market by 2030 at a cost of $10,000), look somewhat like large scuba-diver helmets, or smushed dust busters. They roll on two wheels, which are aligned like the front two wheels of a car, not like a bicycle. GM partnered with Segway, maker of those futuristic-looking transporters, to create technology that allows the car to balance.

“It’s basically a dynamically balanced skateboard,” said Chris Borroni-Bird, GM’s director of advanced technology vehicle concepts.

The EN-V runs on battery power and plugs into a wall — giving it a max speed of about 30 miles per hour and a range of about 30 miles. That’s not far or fast, but it’s enough to make the EN-V useful for cutting down congestion in urban settings, particularly high-density cities in China and India, Borroni-Bird said.

CNN

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