Self Driving Electric Minivan From Chrysler Unveiled At CES 2017
As promised, Chrysler has brought a battery powered minivan to the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Called the Chrysler Portal, it is more than just a Chrysler Pacifica with a larger battery. The concept rides on a 118.2 inch wheelbase, which is slightly shorter than the distance between front and rear wheels in the production car.
The exterior is mostly a design exercise intended to convey a futuristic look. Its most noticeable feature are double sliding doors on each side that give unrestricted access to the interior. Whether they are intended for actual production is unknown. The Portal concept features a 100 kWh battery good for 250 miles or more of range. The vehicle has one electric motor, which drives the front wheels. It can be recharged enough to go an additional 150 miles in just 20 minutes using a 350 kW fast charger. Good luck finding one of those in the ‘hood.
The Portal is mostly about technological gee whiz features developed in conjunction with Panasonic. An array of cameras in the interior monitors all passengers and employs facial recognition technology to remember what each one’s preferences are for lighting, music, temperature, and other amenities. Connectivity is the theme of the interior, which has been designed to cater to the desire of Millenials to never be disconnected from their favorite social media sources.
The Chrysler Portal concept is engineered to seamlessly detect and connect with passengers’ mobile devices, expanding the social canvas. Content from digital devices can be displayed on interior screens visible to all passengers. When a trip is over, the Portal will take a selfie of everyone inside and seamlessly download it to everyone’s PDA device. If this is a preview of what driving will be like in the future, please just shoot me now.
The Portal also features an array of microphones located throughout the interior. Voice recognition technology can identify each person’s voice and use that information to activate requests that pertain to specific individuals. Cameras monitor the driver’s eyes and decide which screen should be used to notify him or her of approaching road hazards or emergency vehicles. With technology this sophisticated, why in the name of Walter Chrysler has no manufacturer figured out how to determine if the driver is drunk or otherwise impaired? That technology would be more useful than taking selfies every time the car completes a journey.
The purpose of all this digital connectivity is to turn every drive into a social memory and promote conversation along the way. Have the engineers who spend time on this stuff noticed that electronic devices turn everyone into a self contained communication island, complete with separate ear buds and — soon — virtual reality goggles? Also, vehicles are primarily used for commuting to work and back. Those are hardly trips people want to remember for the rest of their lives. The Portal concept is equipped for Level 3 autonomous driving and can be adapted for full self driving in the future.
Concept cars are seldom intended for production. They are designed to gather feedback from people like those visiting CES this week. Whether any of the features of the concept ever make it into a production vehicle remains to be seen.
Source: Electric Cars Report Photo credits: Chrysler