GM's autonomous pod could be coming to a megacity near you. The auto manufacturer announced that it has begun development of the next-generation EN-V, and is exploring pilot programs to test the concept in real-world scenarios.
The electric two-seater pod debuted at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and is designed to provide a safe, congestion reducing, zero-emissions transportation solution for dense urban environments. Estimates predict that 60 percent of the world's population will live in megacities by 2030, according to GM.
GM North America President Mark Reuss has said that Detroit would be a good candidate for a pilot project because it could be installed alongside the proposed high-speed rail connection. Military bases and senior-living communities could also be used as testing grounds, Reuss added, but no locations or dates have been confirmed for any location. London Heathrow Airport is currently testing driverless pods to transport passengers between a terminal and parking lots.
The first version of the EN-V, which is short for Electric Networked-Vehicle, was based on the self-balancing Segway two-wheeled PUMA platform, but the second-generation autonomous vehicle is being redesigned. Changes will include climate control, personal storage space, and all-weather operation. The new model will also sport a Chevy badge.
GM brought the EN-V to the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show last year to give consumers a taste of what future mobility could look like. The current concept is powered by a lithium ion battery, has a 25-mile range, and can be recharged from a wall outlet. The EN-V is capable of communicating with other vehicles or transportation infrastructure, and can be driven either manually or automatically. However, GM needs GPS technology to become more precise before it can release the pod into the wild.