Last year, just prior to declaring bankruptcy, GM debuted its Project P.U.M.A., a Segway-like device that moves about on two wheels controlled by the body movements of the driver. But unlike the Segway, you sat in the P.U.M.A.. While it didn’t save GM from bankruptcy, the idea apparently held some weight with the designers, who have unleashed a second salvo of these odd pods.
The Jiao, Miao, and Xiao pods, unveiled in Shanghai this morning, have each been designed on a different continent. They are supposed to be a clean, efficient, high-tech alternatives for congested city travel. But would anyone actually buy one?
Called the EN-V, or Electric Networked Vehicle, it is supposed to be personal transportation, rather than a car. So don’t expect to go on an extended vacation in such a device. The three different designs are supposed to evoke different expressions. The blue one, Jiao, represents Pride and was designed by GM’s Australia arm, Holden. The black one is called Miao, which means Magic, was designed in GM’s California offices. Finally there is Xiao, which means Laugh, and was designed in Europe. Three different answers to the same question; how do we deal with the inevitable urban congestion? GM seems to think people will want to travel in pods.
[Editor’s “Note”: In some way, those quirky names seems appropriate… considering it would take an effort of tremendous ‘magic’ to convince me that riding in them would allow me to keep my ‘pride’ while not being ‘laughed’ at. Badumpbump.]
Each of the pods weighs about 1,100 pounds, and is driven by an electric motor with a range of 40 miles. For city people, that is more than enough methinks. Each pod is crammed with high technology like WiFi, GPS, collision avoidance sensors, and apparently GM thinks these vehicles will one day drive themselves. And why not? Up to five can fit in a single parking space, and imagine a line of people pods cruising alongside of you on the freeway. It might give some people pause when they go to buy their next car… in twenty or thirty years (if they ever make these at all).
While comfort and room could be a problem for those of us with wide shoulders, these pods could solve many problems with infrastructure. Large, wide roadways could be replaced by smaller paths. Garages and parking lots could be downsized accordingly too. They won’t suck up as much power as an electric car, but would still be plenty of transportation for many people, especially commuters. While I don’t expect to see these on the road anytime soon… maybe one day.
The world needs fresh ideas, even from old companies. While I’m not completely sold on the idea, at least GM is trying something… different.
Check out the full press release on the next page.