Autonomous BEV Chrysler Portal is a window to the future

Autonomous BEV Chrysler Portal is a window to the future

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is fast becoming the first auto show of the year. The battery-electric-powered (BEV) Chrysler Portal concept autonomous vehicle was unveiled today at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. The Chrysler Portal is a pillarless autonomous minivan that brings a new definition to openness. Pillarless? Not really, the B-Pillar is built into the doors and when the doors slide away so does the pillar. It’s the same idea as the Ford Fiesta B-Max sold in Europe, and it’s ingenious.

There are many cars on the market that could have one item or multiple items, but there is not a concept around that has put all the elements together in one beautiful, functional product like the Portal concept. And functionality is where this car reigns.

The Portal concept was built by millennials, for millennials. Cindy Juette and Emilio Feliciano may be under twenty-five years old, but don’t let that fool you; these young people designed a car that will be in the plans of Chrysler for years to come. Those designs will start in the next generation of cars, and go all the way through the autonomous electric revolution.

Chrysler thinks this will appeal to Millennials, but I think the doors opening front to back, allowing seats to swivel out (a technology that was on the Mercedes-Benz F-015 concept a couple of years ago at CES) is a benefit that the older generation with handicaps could take advantage of in this transformation. Emilio acknowledged that the minivan concept could have many uses for many different generations. But today, we are focused on a car for the future for millennials.

Forget the toothbrush, add a car seat

I joked with Juette, it used to be that when you were young and in love, the next step was to leave a toothbrush at your beloved’s house. Now, a real commitment would be adding a car seat to the car. The Portal would be sold with just one seat, and you can add them as needed.

The interior is the third space. Cindy Juette, interior designer, explained the concept, “The third space is that space between your living room and work.A pillarless five-seater that incorporates technology. A gallery with open, spacious, modern, free standing sculptures – added dimensions that are traditionally flat – sculptural topography on the floor. A clear roof panel, large windshield and large windows allow plenty of natural light to enter the cabin, adding to the sense of spaciousness.”

The Chrysler Portal concept uses current and near-term sensor technologies, along with advanced computing power and vehicle network infrastructure, for SAE Level 3 autonomous driving. The Portal is designed to accept technology upgrades that would let it operate in full autonomous driving mode if desired by the owner. There will be a dedicated color on the outside of the vehicle that signifies that the car is in autonomous mode.

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

Emilio Feliciano, head user experience, designed the vehicle with the cost caution millennial in mind that is still willing to pay for value-added programs. “The Portal will leverage biometrics so that the car knows you and your passengers and can automatically connect to everyone in the car. New parents can plug in a baby monitor and access the baby video from the camera based mirror where the rear view mirror is usually located.”

There are eight docking stations, and the car is device agnostic, allowing for Apple and Android users to all co-habitat in one vehicle as long as they don’t talk politics or operating systems. There is an intelligent sensor that turns all the lights in the vehicle red when there is an accident ahead of you.

Smart is the new Sexy

Once again, the vehicle is way off in the future, but the important aspect is that Fiat Chrysler gets it. It’s the first stage in going from a car that boasts about 0-60 and horsepower (especially since it’s about torque). Allowing your young people, you are hiring to dream to their fullest.

From Chrysler’s Press Release:

To operate at Level 3 autonomous mode, the Chrysler Portal concept must “see” its location and surrounding environment. To do that, it relies on a suite of sensing technologies. They include:
• Cameras: A combination of short- and long-range cameras to see forward, the sides and rear of the vehicle. The cameras can provide the driver a view of the road ahead and behind, as well as “ground truth” information, such as lane markings and potholes. Also, a camera in the interior monitors the driver
• Radar: Using radio waves, detects objects to the front, rear and corners of the vehicle.
• LIDAR: Using light from pulsed laser beams to illuminate and sense objects ahead of the vehicle
• Ultrasonic: Sensors embedded in front and rear bumpers can sense the presence of multiple objects within a short range

These sensing technologies, in various forms, are in use today in some FCA vehicles, such as radar sensors for Blind-spot Monitoring, radar and cameras for Forward Collision Warning-Plus and adaptive cruise controls, and ultrasonic sensors for ParkSense park assist systems.

In addition, other technologies needed for Level 3 autonomous driving include:
• Global Positioning System (GPS) connectivity for the vehicle to determine its location
• Internet/cloud connectivity for real-time traffic, weather and infrastructure information
• Redundant steering and brake actuators, and a redundant power source
• High-speed computer modules for near range and inertial sensing, high-definition maps, and decision-making

The technology in the Chrysler Portal concept enables the driver to turn control over to the vehicle when it is traveling on predetermined sections of a highway, a situation known as “geo-fencing.”

While at Level 3 autonomy, the vehicle maintains speed and course, but the driver must continue to monitor the road and driving environment. A camera mounted on the Portal’s instrument panel uses facial recognition software to monitor the driver.

If the vehicle determines that the driver is not monitoring the road or driving conditions change, it alerts the driver to retake manual control. If the driver does not respond to the alerts, the vehicle will maneuver itself to the side of the road and come to a safe stop.

In anticipation of being upgraded to higher levels of autonomous driving, the Portal concept is equipped with a steering wheel that condenses and retracts into the instrument panel. This opens space in front of the driver, as well as provide a seamless look for the entire instrument panel.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.