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