Automotive

Buick's electric Smart Pod concept gazes into the autonomous future

Buick's electric Smart Pod con...
The Smart Pod uses what Buick calls a glass latice architecture
The Smart Pod uses what Buick calls a glass lattice structure
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The Smart Pod concept uses a compelling array of micro-LEDs for its front and rear lights
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The Smart Pod concept uses a compelling array of micro-LEDs for its front and rear lights
The Smart Pod uses what Buick calls a glass latice architecture
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The Smart Pod uses what Buick calls a glass lattice structure
Buick maximizes interior space with short front and rear overhangs and a boxy body
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Buick maximes interior space with short front and rear overhangs and a boxy body
The lattice glass roof enhances the interior view and connection with the outdoors
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The lattice glass roof enhances the interior view and connection with the outdoors
Two large reclining chairs and what appears to be a tea cabinet between them
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Two large reclining chairs and what appears to be a tea cabinet between them
The retractable display can take on the look of a wide instrument panel/infotainment screen
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The retractable display can take on the look of a wide instrument panel/infotainment screen
A fold-down bench adds extra seats and completes a vis-a-vis layout
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A fold-down bench adds extra seats and completes a vis-a-vis layout
The 50-in display fully deploys for auto infotainment, productivity and leisure viewing
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The 50-in display fully deploys for auto infotainment, productivity and leisure viewing
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The glassy construction lends the feel of a glass building
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The glassy construction lends the feel of a glass building
Buick revealed the autonomous Smart Pod concept at Auto Guangzhou 2021
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Buick revealed the autonomous Smart Pod concept at Auto Guangzhou 2021
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Highlighting both the present and the distant future, Buick has unveiled the new Smart Pod concept at the Guangzhou auto show. Powered by GM's Ultium electric platform and brought to life by the automaker's US Advanced Design Studio, the concept provides a futuristic vision of pure autonomy, in which car occupants are more likely to enjoy a cup of tea while watching a game on the big screen than to ever brush a shoe sole against an accelerator or brake pedal.

The Smart Pod's expansive glasshouse proves a critical foundational element of its design. Nearly opaque from the outside but transparent from the inside, the glass helps delineate the concept's unique, futuristic exterior from a private, cocoon-like interior in which the Level 5 autonomy frees occupants to make better use of their commuting time, whether pursuing leisure or productivity.

We fully expected the interior of the Smart Pod's glass to include some type of augmented reality overlay, but Buick saves that type of thing for the retractable 50-in retina LED screen. The vehicle glass is left clear and uncluttered, providing a panoramic connection with the natural outdoor surroundings, something Buick accentuates through natural accents like the dashboard plants and tree-bark-like flooring. Passengers can enjoy the view from their seats or recline back into sleep mode and let the twinkling stars or deep-blue sky lull them into a nap.

The 50-in display fully deploys for auto infotainment, productivity and leisure viewing
The 50-in display fully deploys for auto infotainment, productivity and leisure viewing

During waking hours, the Smart Pod's variable seating and table concept, multi-position retractable display and audio system with noise-cancelling all serve to support passengers in whatever they decide to do. The display works as an infotainment-style wide screen or pops into full-height mode to connect with mobile devices and show anything from a work presentation to the latest episode of a favorite Netflix series. The greater infotainment system also includes a virtual assistant and counts both voice control and digital eye-tracking as part of its human-machine interface (HMI).

Buick maximizes interior space with short front and rear overhangs and a boxy body
Buick maximes interior space with short front and rear overhangs and a boxy body

Stepping outside its van-like sliding door, the Smart Pod very much looks the part of a transportation "pod." Along with a full suite of unspecified autonomous-driving sensors, it features micro-LED swarm lighting in place of traditional headlights and taillights.

Auto Guangzhou 2021 kicked off last week and runs through November 28.

Source: General Motors

View gallery - 11 images
4 comments
4 comments
2hung2b
Pretty cool concept, but i wonder about the totally opaque ''windows''. There may be legalities involved. Most states in the US have some restrictions on window tinting that's deemed too dark. Its a safety thing for the police. I'm thinking the authorities may have something to say on this.
paul314
Do any of these things plan any kind of safety for collisions? Because shards of 50-inch screen bouncing around an interior along with unbelted occupants. (Or does autonomous mean there will be no collisions with anything ever)
Daishi
@paul314 People have this utopian science fiction view of autonomous driving that views technology is omnipotent and faultless. Automation is good for predictable and repeatable tasks. Even in cases where driving does fall into this you have to work with large amounts of imperfect data to make decisions and there are still an infinite number of corner cases that basically require general intelligence to handle. It's hard for me to imagine a non science fiction scenario where we still need seatbelts on airplanes but no longer need them in cars.
ljaques
These will go over well in places like HelL.A., Portland, Seattle, and Waukesha, I'll bet.
I love the subtle artistic shading effect on the glass. Very cool. The dark window shading is unrealistic, and a negative factor.