GM's EN-V concept learns how not to kill people, mostly

GM's EN-V concepts might look like giant mutant robotic jellybeans, but they've got some brains under their nonexistent hoods, and they're smart enough to avoid running into pedestrians, most of the time.

GM took over a swathe of the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot with a posse of their EN-V concept cars, and demonstrated some of the cars' autonomous intelligence features. The cars themselves are basically giant enclosed Segways with seats, balancing on two wheels while they're moving. To keep from tipping over when they speed up or slow down, the entire top portion of the cars slides back and forth on a moving platform to compensate for acceleration by altering its center of gravity. When the car is parked, the platform slides forward, and the vehicle rests its chin on the ground to make it easier for you to get in and out.

Using wireless communication and a variety of active sensors, the EN-V can pull off some fairly impressive autonomous tricks. It can drive a set path on its own, or navigate directly to your cell phone using GPS. Two EN-V vehicles can play follow the leader, and they can autonomously avoid hitting each other. They've also learned to use some ultrasonic sensors to detect pedestrians, although in the demo, one hapless GM volunteer nearly got run over, at which point the EN-V seemed to freak out and refused to move any more.

GM sees EN-V as a supplement to current vehicles for purely urban transportation. They're only about five feet wide, making them ideal for parking. They have about a quarter the battery capacity as something like the Volt, giving them a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 25 miles, but most of the time, that's all you need for quick trips around town. Plus, they're super duper cute, so it's definitely too bad they won't be seeing production anytime soon, if ever.

We've got a gallery of EN-Vs from CES plus some extra concept renderings below.

Via GM

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