Urban Ride of the Future? GM’s EN-V

GM's EN-V concept

“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, when he said the world was round.” So goes the old Gershwin song. And so goes GM with its urban concept “cars,” the two-wheeled EN-Vs it will showcase at the World Expo in Shanghai.

The idea is revolutionary: End congestion in cities, eliminate accidents, end pollution. And this is coming from GM?! Indeed so, and we have a video after the jump explaining the why’s if not the how’s. CNET’s Car Tech blog does tell us, however, that

the vehicle combines a GPS with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies so that the EN-V concept can be driven manually and autonomously. This capability offers the promise of reducing traffic congestion by allowing EN-V to automatically select the fastest route based on real-time traffic information.

EN-V (Electronic Networked-Vehicle) is an offshoot of the PUMA concept developed by Segway, GM’s partner in developing the EN-V powertrain. Director of the program Chris Borroni-Bird explains how the “car” answers the needs for urban mobility.

I think most of us could point out flaws in the EN-V design (unsafe in an accident, blind spots, too small, etc.). But it’s hard to refute the conditions that make such a concept at least a plausible response. Traffic in our cities gets worse and worse; accidents proliferate; smog is nearly uncontrollable.

Here’s a graphic showing time wasted in rush-hour congestion in our major cities. (The red line represents conditions in 1997; the gray area, today. Go here for a larger view.)

The EN-V would be usable only in controlled conditions (running in its own lanes, for instance) and in downtowns. Driving in both outlying areas and the inner city would seem beyond its capabilities. But, hey, it’s a response to a problem that can only grow worse, and something like it, in my opinion, is bound to come.

What do you think about the feasibility of the EN-V? Will we get such vehicles in the next twenty years in our cities?


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1 Comment

  1. The EN-V looks like it would reduce some of the problems urban commuters face on the road every day, but I wonder why it’s built for two (don’t most commuters travel solo?) and why it doesn’t have a built-in desk, so you can take advantage of the fact that it can drive itself by getting some work done on the way to and from the office. For now, I’ll keep riding to work on my bike, thanks.

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