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USA: GM’s Christopher Borroni-Bird on the Future of Cars

In this excerpt from the “Transportation, Technology, and Retrofitting Cities” session at Techonomy 2011, GM’s Director of Advanced Vehicle Concepts Christopher Borroni-Bird discusses advances in automotive technology that will redefine transportation in the 21st century. He begins by citing five attributes that will enable cars to address the trends of urbanization and aging—small, shared, electric, networked, autonomous. Cars already integrate some of these features in impactful ways. Small, shared vehicles are easy to park and maneuver in dense urban centers, and cut down on traffic and fuel consumption. Electric vehicles produce zero emissions and encourage the use of diverse energy sources. Borroni-Bird’s pet project at GM, the EN-V (electric, networked vehicle), brings two key factors into the mix: it is capable of both manual and autonomous operation and can be networked into a managed traffic system.

Instead of thinking about energy sources in either-or terms, says Borroni-Bird, we need to think about the full range of possibilities—electric, hydrogen, biofuel, natural gas—and discover ways to combine and exploit them. In the same way, he believes, we have to think about how to integrate public and personal transportation, for example enabling small cars to be docked on commuter trains.
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