According to Honda, a vehicle is parked a whopping 96 percent of the time. With that in mind, the automaker this week unveiled the NueV (New Electric Urban Vehicle) concept, an autonomous automobile that could potentially make its owner some extra cash by acting as its own low-level, Uber-like ride-hailing service.
The car (which looks like a small, futuristic version of the automaker’s discontinued Element SUV) would autonomously pick up and drop off customers around town while the owner was at home or work. Honda also stated that the vehicle could potentially sell excess energy it had generated back into the grid.
And when the NeuV isn’t making its owner money, it’s learning about that person through the Honda Automated Network Assistant AI (HANA, for short). But it’s doing more than just figuring out when a person is most likely to drive and the best route to their job; it’s using what the company calls an “emotion engine” to detect the “emotions behind the driver’s judgments.”
Feelings-detection aside, the car itself looks perfect for driving around (and more importantly, parking) in a dense urban environment. Honda says that it won’t recess the steering wheel while in autonomous mode to give the driver the opportunity to take over whenever they want. The automaker says it really wants people to continue to enjoy driving.
Even though I couldn’t actually drive the car, I suspect that the small wheelbase and electric motors could make it a fun city car. Plus, thanks to the glass roof and high profile, it doesn’t feel as small on the inside as it looks from the outside. And the doors opening upward instead of out means you can cram it into tiny parking spots. In fact, if Honda were to release the NueV next year, it would be well poised to complete against the Mini, Fiat and other small cars.
Unfortunately, there’s no word when or if the NeuV will make it out of concept territory and into showrooms. So we’ll wait and hope the HANA AI guilts the automaker into releasing her into the world.
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