Chrysler's Portal leads to a seamlessly connected, self-driving future
At CES 2017, Chrysler is presenting a concept car with the flexibility and upgradability to grow with the millennial, from adventurous youth to head of household. The all-new Portal Concept debuts as a high-tech semi-autonomous MPV loaded with the types of technologies millennials have come to treat like breathable oxygen and the flexibility to load up with people, cargo or both. A couple weeks after Chrysler sent a fleet of self-driving minivans over to Google's Waymo, a new self-driving Chrysler minivan grabs the spotlight.
After doing some research on millennials, Chrysler focused attention on designing the Portal Concept from the inside out, starting with a highly configurable, high-tech six-seat interior accessed via the 5-foot wide entry created by front and rear articulated doors with edge-integrated B pillars. It fills that interior with all kinds of technology, customization and social sharing in an attempt to appeal to members of a generation that see tech as an integral part of their lives.
The Portal creates a more seamless experience immediately, using a combination of smartphone and facial recognition to recognize the driver and passengers and personalize settings for each one. Chrysler says the vehicle can automatically adjust music, lighting, temperature, seat heating/cooling and other settings for each seating position. And should an occupant switch to a different seat, the settings will move with him or her. Voice detection allows a recognized driver or passenger to unlock the wide-opening doors by a simple spoken command.
Contributing to the "individual zone" nature of the seats, each one is situated independently, with its own armrests and pedestal base mounted to floor tracks. The floor tracks taper inward as they move toward the rear of the vehicle, ensuring a clear "over the shoulder" view of the front displays for all passengers. The seats can be adjusted along the tracks, folded up or removed completely to provide many configurations for passengers and cargo. In addition to folding backs, the seats incorporate cushions that fold up, like a stadium seat, further increasing interior versatility. The floor rails can also be used with accessories for securing things like bikes inside the cabin.
Each seat includes an individual audio zone and voice recognition microphones to capture each occupant's commands. Touch technology also plays heavily in the interior design, and a central headliner dock turns a mobile device into a community display, visible to all passengers. Passengers can easily share content by swiping it to this central community screen. Docks around the interior make it easy to mount and charge other mobile devices.
Using predictive intelligence, the Portal can take passenger preferences into consideration when creating a route from A to B, assisting in finding restaurants and points of interest along the way, as well as in identifying music and video content everyone will enjoy during the ride. At pit stops, digital fast food ordering and payment serve as an alternative to screaming at the drive-through display and tossing bills and coins through a window.
Chrysler's "inside out" focus is very clear, and the interior is definitely the star of the Portal design, but the concept is also a look at an autonomous vehicle equipped with SAE Level 3 capability. The driver can hand control over to a hardware suite that includes GPS, Vehicle-to-X communications and LIDAR, radar, ultrasonic and camera sensors during certain highway commuting situations but must remain prepared to take over when necessary. Chrysler says that the Portal's self-driving capability could be upgraded to Level 4, as technology progresses and drivers desire, and the concept includes a retractable steering wheel design with this more advanced autonomy in mind. The front seats don't appear to swivel, though.
Since the Portal does require human driver alertness and intervention, it includes a few driver-assistance technologies. The AMOLED information screen stretching across the dash splits info up into three zones: a basic driver-side instrument cluster with usuals like speed and battery level, a central zone showing the vehicle's 360-degree surroundings, and an in-vehicle settings and media sharing zone.
Chrysler's facial recognition hardware tracks the driver's eyes to make sure he or she is paying attention as required within Level 3 driving, issuing an alert to take over when it deems the driver is not paying attention. If the driver doesn't take control after such an alert, the vehicle will pull to a stop at the side of the road. Using this same facial tracking technology, the car places key information within the driver's sightline and automatically dims or brightens the display as needed to reduce eyestrain.
Like most good CES concept cars, the Portal is of electric build, relying on a front-mounted motor and 100-kWh lithium-ion battery pack for up to 250 miles (402 km) or so of range. With a DC Fast Charger, the minivan can dial up 150 miles (241 km) of range within about 20 minutes of charging. The battery is mounted below the vehicle floor within the 118.2-in (3,002-mm) wheelbase, keeping the interior's 180 cu ft (5 cu m) of space open and configurable.
Chrysler imagines the Portal's suite of over 20 individual technologies being offered in an al a carte and upgradeable way, allowing customers to pick and choose which features to add and when. For instance, as a couple grows into a larger family, they could add new features, activating the short-range wireless network to support a video baby monitor system for the rear carseat or the facial recognition suite to streamline personalization of in-vehicle settings for themselves and their children. In addition to the previously discussed technologies, the Portal features an interior "selfie" camera, passenger-to-passenger intercom, smart home integration, gesture control, personalized lighting and a companion app.
Chrysler's press release doesn't mention any plans for production of a Portal-like vehicle, so we'll assume this is purely an exploration of ideas.
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