Take a look at it. This vehicle may look a bit humorous at first, but the name of the vehicle lends itself to that reaction. Well, sort of. The name of this
is Xiao, which translates to the word “laugh” which, according to GM, is one of the three characteristics that emphasize the nature of future transportation.
The other two models are Jiao (pride) and Miao (magic) and they complete the lineup of EN-V models that GM unveiled at
the Shanghai World Expo in March.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to break away from the CES show floor last Thursday to take a ride in Xiao, as part of an exclusive GM press event held out in the parking lot. To me, it certainly seemed exclusive as there were only about 10-12 of us in attendance. But it could be that others simply couldn’t find their way out of the massive and sprawled-out halls that made up CES this year. But that’s a blog for another time.
We had a chance to meet and chat with Chris Borroni-Bird, GM’s director of advanced technology vehicle concepts, about the vehicles; see them in action; and then sit inside and go
for a ride!
The EV (electric vehicle) was supposedly a big theme for CES this year. We looked long and hard for the EV pavilion in the show’s North Hall but to no avail. Perhaps we just missed it?
In any case, GM believes EN-V to be the most promising among EV concepts for drivers of the future. The company is positioning the vehicles under a new urban mobility concept, backed
up by numbers that were presented to us that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Of course this will put tremendous pressure on the public infrastructure, which
means new vehicles will be required.
So will the Xiao be the car of the future? This I am not certain. Just a quick look at it had me thinking that I would be toast should my Xiao encounter one of those massive CES shuttle buses
on the road (which, by the way allowed me and our managing editor to avoid those pesky cab lines at the show).
Speaking with Borroni-Bird, he admitted that the safety issue would have to be addressed, saying that reinforcing the car’s structure to withstand a crash would not be practical in making it an EV. He suggested that perhaps an area where public infrastructure is
not quite built out could be ideal. I am thinking places like maybe Mackinac Island in Michigan or Put-In Bay in Ohio where vehicles are not permitted?
It did have some cool connected features too. The car could sense when a pedestrian was walking in front of it and would immediately stop. We also saw a nice demonstration where two cars followed each other’s path without the driver needing to navigate—in other words,
the vehicle can be driven autonomously. This feature uses GPS with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies—M2M!
Some other connected features included the use of realtime traffic info to allow the driver to select the fastest route; wireless communications where drivers and passengers can talk hands free; and some video technology associated with the aforementioned distance-sending features.
While I waited in line to jump inside I had a nice chat with Borroni-Bird, where we discussed the speeds at which the vehicle can go; the weight distribution supported by the structure;
urban mobility; and my little question about safety on the road. It turns out he wrote a book titled “Reinventing the Automobile” and he shared with me some thoughts about how we can
indeed reinvent the drive, if you will, starting with cars like this.
Inside my Xiao the experience was good. I was surprised at how smooth the ride was, and how quiet the cab was (come to think of it, this vehicle is ALL CAB). And starting up, it felt like I was on a Segway. And for good reason, as Borroni-Bird informed us that the EN-V’s
structure evolved from the Segway, which also collaborated with GM to develop and supply the drivetrain platform that powers these EN-Vs.
I want to thank GM for allowing me to sit in on the ride and also thank Borroni-Bird for the time he spent chatting with me one-on-one—it made it a more personal experience. Perhaps this is
the future. Perhaps not. In either case, it was the most hands-on experience I had with regards to EVs at CES, where it was promoted that I would see so much more.