Chevrolet's Electric Networked-Vehicle concept may not generate the buzz that Google's latest autonomous car did when it showed up a few months ago. Unlike Google's newly born effort, however, the EN-V's been around since 2010, and version 2.0 of the concept debuted on Sunday at the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) World Congress in Detroit.
Also, where Google's effort looks like a child's drawing of a car, the EN-V 2.0 looks like what would happen if you crossed a ladybird with a Transformer robot. Just check out the wing-like doors, for instance.
Like any concept car, the new EN-V 2.0 may never see real street time. Still, General Motors is using the EN-V 2.0 to explore several tantalising ideas.
The first is a vision of focused urban-only driving, where the top speed of the EN-V 2.0 is just 25 miles per hour. No, this isn't for drag-racing, but rather for tooling around town and picking up the kids – or one child at a time, anyway (it's a two-seater).
The concept car's equipped with cameras, LiDAR sensors, and vehicle-to-X capabilities, so it can be aware of, and even communicate with, nearby cars and traffic infrastructure. Thus equipped, the car can make many or all of the decisions while the driver rides hands-free.
As for user-facing tech, note in the image above, the small display on top of the dashboard. Even the brake and accelerator pedals are in on the theme, showing "pause" and "play" icons – as if you were playing a game or video with them, rather than driving.
The EN-V 2.0 is also small enough to fit two of itself in a regular-size parking space. I'm not sure how the local parking-enforcement authorities would see that, let alone how the drivers would figure out how to share, but the luxury of being a concept car is that you don't have to work out all the details.
Micro-cars have their pros and cons, of course, as you can already experience in shipping models like the Smart and the Fiat 500: lack of space, uncomfortable rides, often-anemic performance. It's just hard for all the things a car needs – safety, versatility, fuel economy, comfort and more--to fit inside such a small form factor.
Upcoming models like the highway-ready Elio (shown here), along with concepts like the EN-V 2.0 and Google's autonomous car, show that the micro-car is still a young and very fertile path of exploration for car manufacturers, as well as an uncertain one.