The image: General Motors reportedly plans to start selling a two-seat, self-steering electric "pod" car around 2020. GM developed the design of the futuristic "Electric Network Vehicle" (EN-V) with the help of Segway, and the car balances itself using the same gyroscopic technology that keeps the two-wheeled Segway scooter from tipping over. (See an image of the pod car below.) The EN-V will be able to operate autonomously, going where its passengers tell it, and using GPS signals to find its path. It's programmed to avoid collisions with cars and other obstacles. The prototype is touring car shows now, but GM won't offer the pod cars for sale until GPS technology, which now has a 10-foot margin of error, gets more precise. The carmaker hopes to keep the cost to around $10,000.
The reaction: Finally, "the Jetsons future we've always been waiting for," says Ariel Schwartz at Fast Compan y. The EN-V can park itself, and when you need it, you can summon it with a smartphone app. "Sounds pretty exciting," says Tyler Lee at UberGizmo, "but 10 to 15 years is a pretty long wait." And the prototype can't drive in snow or rain, and lacks the juice to even climb a steep driveway, so it's not yet practical for the real world. Well, "I hope it all gets sorted out," says Jim Motavilli at BNET, "because an autonomous pod would be great for getting to my job downtown at the cloning factory in 2020." And with the EN-V doing the driving, we'll all have more time to look at our 3D iPads. Have a look at GM's pod car:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
Subscribe to the Week