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I won’t live to see this, thankfully

March 29, 2010
GM's EN-V, transportation for the Brave New World

General Motors' EN-V, transportation for the Brave New World of 2030 (General Motors photos)

While I mostly enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was always very glad I wouldn’t live to see the show’s vision of life in the 24th century. Humor, spontaneity and whimsy had been pretty well purged from humanity. The most interesting member of the crew of the Enterprise D was an android, after all.

The trouble with science fiction, however, is that a lot of the concepts around which the stories are built come to pass much, much sooner than the stories suggest.

General Motors recently unveiled three EN-V concept vehicles. In Shanghai, China.

Shanghai will likely be the congested urban area the concepts’ creators envision for the year 2030, a scant two decades from now. The rest of the world? Well, most of Earth’s western industrialized nations report fewer than two children per woman of childbearing age. I’m going to guess you know how babies are made, and that fractions don’t work in that case. In a nutshell, this statistic means not enough new people are being created to replace the ones who already exist. (That the U.S. has something like 2.1 is attributed to immigration, and immigrants’ greater willingness to procreate.)

In fact, Japan, Russia and Italy are expected to suffer significant population decreases in the next 50 years. Birth rates in China and India may decrease as these countries’ people become more prosperous and urbanized, but that remains to be seen.

But assuming the EN-Vs’ premise comes to pass, there are some things about the concept that bother me.

The press release quoted in Autoblog Green’s story touts the vehicles’ ability to be driven “autonomously.” That sounds to me like the default mode is not autonomous. I really don’t like the idea of being second-guessed by my car, or by some network my car is plugged into.

I was an IT guy not so long ago, and the issue of security was one I dealt with on a regular basis. The “smart grid” that is supposed to make electric cars (like, for instance, the EN-V) practical and ubiquitous, is vulnerable to being hacked. Hackers are resourceful; they’d find a way to muck around with the cars’ network. And what would you do if you were in your car when it happened?

GM's EN-V, transportation for the Brave New World

Never mind security, the vehicles themselves remind me of the device the semi-vegetative Capt. Christopher Pike scuttled around in on an episode of the original Star Trek. At least this thing has more capabilities than beeping and blinking once for “yes” and twice for “no.” Or was it the other way around?

Anyway, there are already 2-wheeled, 2-passenger vehicles designed for congested urban areas. They’re called scooters.

Which, unlike the EN-V, are fun. Favicon

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One Comment
  1. March 29, 2010 9:35 am

    Desar Orin:

    I believe these are for getting around in the biosphere. What American high-schooler would have a vehicle you couldn’t get laid in?

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

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