Shanghai, China – It’s a telling insight into the future of human mobility that NEVS chose to launch its InMotion urban transport system at a Consumer Electronics Show.
Because the InMotion concept is not a car; it’s a multipurpose convention centre on wheels – and, like an Uber, you don’t own one, you call one when you need it.
It’s been created by National Electric Vehicles Sweden, a joint Swedish/Chinese venture formed out of the ashes of the bankrupt Saab company, as a vision for a possible Level 5 (completely driverless) autonomous vehicle.
Based on the premise that once you have summoned it, using an app on your phone, and told it where you want to go, you need pay no further attention to how it gets you there, it has no manual controls, and there is no need to have the seats facing in any particular direction – or even the same direction, for that matter.
It’s all about flexibility; there’s only one door, on the side facing the pavement, making it impossible to step out into oncoming traffic, and the four seats can swivel, so they can be re-arranged as necessary, like the chairs in a meeting room. If you want to read, surf the net, work or just close your eyes and relax for a few minutes, you can just turn your seat to face the wall and you are, in effect, in your own little bubble.
To socialise, all four seats are turned to face the centre of the cabin, and for a business meeting, the inside of the door becomes a big projection screen and the seats are arranged in an arc, facing it.
More than that, you can arrange the seating, climate control, ambient lighting and choice of background music the way you want it, using your smartphone, and save the settings; then, the next time you summon an InMotion vehicle, you can press ’Recall Settings’ and when it arrives the cabin will be contoured exactly as before – even though it’s not the same vehicle, or even in the same city.
Most privately owned vehicles spend 95 percent of their time standing still, either parked or in traffic, says NEVS; thus, in an ideal world, one InMotion vehicle could replace 20 private cars. In reality, because there is such a thing as rush hour, it’s more likely to take the place of, at most, four cars – but even that would radically reduce congestion, and free up a lot of car-parks to become green spaces.
NEVS envisages battery power for InMotion vehicles, of course, which would also reduce pollution, and by having induction coils under InMotion standby bays, any time one isn’t in use, it’s on charge.