Chevy embraces the future with the FNR autonomous vehicle

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Chevrolet reveals the FNR at Auto Shanghai 2015 (Photo: General Motors)

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This is the year that automotive companies will tantalize eyes and minds with full visions of autonomous cars. Mercedes opened up the year with the intriguing F 015 design study, and Italdesign Giugiaro showed its own version of autonomy with the Geneva-debuted GEA. Chevrolet has an equally intriguing self-driving vision, and it calls it the FNR. The "futuristic capsule" is loaded with next-generation styling, technology and ideas.

The FNR ticks all the boxes of obligatory autonomous concept car design elements – the "Hey, no one has to really see out the windshield, so let's make a weird-looking rolling egg!" styling; the RV-style swivel front seats; the open, B-pillarless lounge-like cabin space; and the extra-large digital display. Check, check, check and check.

The FNR does stray from the norm established by past concepts like the F 015 and the Zoox Boz in a few ways, though. Its prominent glass dome is secured to structured fenders and a semi-traditional grille and headlamp layout, maintaining at least some semblance of a familiar automobile. It's much less a shapeless blob than other autonomous concepts. When you stare it in the face, it looks a tad angry and aggressive, like an autonomous car that's itching to speed a little over the limit to get you there a few seconds early.

The FNR also features a different rendition of B-pillarless design. Italdesign and Mercedes designers went the easiest route with suicide doors, while Chevy is a little more creative in bolting front butterfly wings and a rear-lifting hatch to the FNR body, a configuration it calls "dragonfly dual swing doors." The pop-open rear-end appears to provide comfy ingress to the rearmost bench. That bench separates the FNR from other autonomous designs more concerned with creating a spacious cabin for four people. It appears that the FNR has two seats on the bench, creating an interior large enough for a family of six.

The FNR is stuffed with next-generation technologies that are worth only passing mention because that's all Chevy gives them in its press release – the concept is really just an auto-show styling exercise, after all. The electric car is powered by magnetic hubless wheel motors and charged wirelessly. The driver starts the motor with an iris recognition system and can opt between manual and autonomous modes. A combination of sensors and a roof-mounted radar system analyzes the surroundings during autonomous driving, and a set of crystal laser head and tail lamps light the way.

The FNR was developed in Shanghai by GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center to help put the "show" into the Auto Shanghai show. While the concept car won't be working its way into Chevy's lineup anytime soon, GM has announced plans to get autonomous technology to market within the next two years.

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