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Self-driving electric vehicle targeting 80’s in China: Secrets of Chevrolet-FNR

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Tucked away in a nondescript commercial building in Fountain Valley, Calif., dozens of designers, engineers, and craftsmen have toiled secretively for months on a project that offers a glimpse of the way we may be driving 15 years from now. Their hangar-like workspace belongs to GFMI Metalcrafters, a company that for decades has built many of the most important concept cars to hit the auto show circuit. Laboring furiously in its password-protected workrooms, these teams have been assembling a car so far ahead of its time that some of the technologies and materials it requires don’t exist yet.

在一栋深藏于加州芳泉谷,毫不起眼的办公楼里,一群设计师、工程师和技师已秘密奋战了好几个月,这个项目可以让我们一窥15年后的驾驶方式。这个外形犹如机库的工作室属于GFMI Metalcrafters公司。多年来,这家公司已打造了多款在车展上闪亮登场的重磅概念车。在这间必须输入密码才能进入的工作室里,这些团队全身心地投入工作,组装了一辆远远超越时代的汽车。正因为太先进,它所需的一些技术和材料迄今还没有问世。

 

Meet the Chevrolet-FNR, perhaps Chevy’s most unusual concept car to date, and a stake-in-the-ground statement from Chevy’s parent, General Motors.The FNR is a fully autonomous—that is, self-driving—electric vehicle, developed as part of PATAC, a joint venture of GM and Chinese automaker SAIC Motors. It’s a family-sedan-cum-techno-infotainment solution aimed squarely at China’s youth market, consumers who characteristically respond better to smartphones than sheet metal. Chevy unveiled the FNR (it stands for “Find New Roads,” the brand’s tagline) on Monday at the 2015 Shanghai motor show; Fortune got a sneak peak at the vehicle as it prepared for its debut.

这款名为雪佛兰FNR的车型,可能是雪佛兰迄今为止最不同寻常的概念车,也是其母公司通用汽车真正掷地有声的力作。这款全自动(即自动驾驶)电动车,是泛亚汽车技术中心研发的成果之一。这个中心是通用汽车和上汽集团的合资企业。这既是一款专为中国年轻人群市场开发的家用轿车,也是一个技术及娱乐解决方案。 比起汽车来,这群消费者通常对智能手机更感兴趣。在周一开幕的2015年上海车展上,雪佛兰揭开了FNR(这三个字母意为“找寻新路”,是该品牌的口号) 的神秘面纱。在其首次亮相前的准备阶段,《财富》杂志有幸率先一窥这款概念车的真容。

 

Chevy hopes that the FNR will hook millennials, not just in China but worldwide, with the promise of a vehicle that will be part Siri, part BFF, and part Fitbit. “Everywhere in the world our time is constrained—commute time, work time, family time,” says Sharon Nishi, head of sales and marketing for Chevy’s operations in China. “Those are some of the things that inspired this car.” And in a departure from current trends in autonomous-vehicle development, Chevy envisions the FNR as a vehicle for the mass market. GM projects that by 2030—the hypothetical model year for the FNR—self-driving technologies will be prolific enough to have become less costly, and therefore feasible for a real-world family car. And its executives think autonomous vehicles have a particularly good chance of proliferating in developing countries like China, where cities and roads are crowding quickly, governments are eager to resolve congestion, and much infrastructure is yet to be built.

雪佛兰希望FNR能吸引全球而不仅仅是中国的80后、90后。它将语音助手Siri、BFF技术和运动腕带Fitbit等多重功能集于一身。雪佛兰中国销售兼营销总监莎伦•西称:“无论身在何处,我们的时间总是紧巴巴的——通勤时间、工作时间及与家人相处的时间。这正是启发我们开发这款车的因素之一。”与当前自动驾驶汽车开发的潮流有所不同,雪佛兰预计FNR将属于大众市场。通用汽车预计,到2030年——这也是FNR假设的车型年——自动驾驶技术将能够赚钱,成本将大幅降低,并成为真正的家用车。通用的高管还认为,在像中国这样的发展中国家,自动驾驶汽车尤其有机会获得大发展,因为这类国家的城市和道路很快就将变得拥挤不堪,政府十分希望破解拥堵难题,同时还有大量基础设施有待建设。

 

“Design is really important in China,” says Nishi—and appropriately enough, the FNR’s exterior projects futuristic muscle-car attitude. Motors housed in the rims of its massive, hubless wheels will power the car (once that particular innovation is fully developed). The FNR’s sculpted exterior panels are made from composites like carbon fiber to save weight, and designed with air intakes that add drama and aerodynamic flow to the overall shape. Double scissor doors open on each side like lotus blossoms. The crowning touch: Thousands of LED lights swathe the vehicle, illuminating it outside and in with a bright blue light, an ode to Shanghai’s famous evening light shows from PATAC advanced vehicle designer Cao Min and his team.

莎伦•西表示:“在中国,设计实在是太重要了,”而FNR的外形恰恰展现出一种充满未来感的肌肉车风范。位于巨大的无轮毂车轮中的电动机是动力来源(在充分开发完成后,这一特有的创新成果即可使用)。FNR凹凸有致的外壳由碳纤维一类材质构成,以减轻车重,特别设计的进气口让整个车身平添几分动感, 也提高了空气动力学性能。两边各自打开的双铡刀车门远望犹如盛开的莲花。点睛之笔是:上千盏LED灯点缀全车,让它周身散发出明亮的蓝光,这是泛亚中心高级汽车设计师曹明(音译)和他的团队对上海名扬全球的夜景灯光秀的礼赞。

 

The interior, on the other hand, promises that driving itself can be an afterthought, if the user chooses. The FNR would allow occupants to sit back and enjoy the ride in motorized webbed seats that can read everything from heart rate and blood pressure to mood—and adjust temperature, speed, lighting, and even musical selections for those who want to work or sleep. Care to swap out the map projected on the oversized canopy and work on some spreadsheets? Simply swipe your hand over the gesture-controlled crystal ball in the center console to reconfigure the display. Of course, that’s assuming you’re in the car at all. The FNR could “run errands for you while you’re at work, or take itself to the dealer for service so you don’t have to,” says Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of global product development.

另一方面,车内布局则给人这样一种感觉:如果用户自主选择的话,驾驶本身将会被抛在脑后。乘坐者可以舒服地躺在FNR的电动网状座椅上,尽情享受旅程。 这种座椅可以读取心率、血压和情绪状况,还能调节温度、速度、灯光,那些想工作或闭目养神的乘坐者甚至可以选择合适的背景音乐。想调出地图,投射到超大车 顶上,并处理一些电子表格?只需用手在中控台的手势控制水晶球上一划,就能变换显示内容。当然,这是假设车主完全置身车内才行。通用汽车全球产品开发执行副总裁马克•罗伊斯声称,FNR将“在你工作时为你处理琐事,或是自己开到经销商那里维修,为车主省事。”

 

That passivity can seem incongruous, given that the Chevy bowtie logo has always been associated with high-rev performance—think Corvette and Camaro. Some in the industry wonder more generally what will happen to a driver’s ability to enjoy a car’s dynamic capabilities in an autonomous world. According to Jeff Owens, CTO at Delphi, a leader in sensor technology, “If we get to a car that truly drives itself in all conditions, you’d be hard-pressed to program it not to follow the legal speed limit.” (GM says that for drivers who like an edgier performance experience, the FNR will be able to tighten its suspension and execute tight turns while hitting high but legal speeds.)

一提到雪佛兰的金领结标识,大家就会联想到令人血脉贲张的高性能车——比如科尔维特超跑和大黄蜂科迈罗。因此,这种被动感似乎跟这一品牌不协调。有些业内人士更是推而广之地想到,在完全自动驾驶的情况下,驾驶者如何才能享受一辆车的动力性能呢?传感器技术的领军企业德尔福公司首席技术官杰夫•欧文斯表示,“如果我们开一辆在任何情况下都自动驾驶的车,我们就会被迫将它的程序设定为不完全遵守法定限速。”(通用汽车表示,如果驾驶者喜欢更激烈的性能体验,在开得较快但仍在法定限速以内时,FNR可以把悬挂调紧,过弯时也更急。)

 

There’s much work to be done before cars come anywhere close to fulfilling the FNR’s fully autonomous promise. Autonomous-vehicle research has accounted for a significant share of the more than $7 billion GM has spent annually on research and development over the past three years. And like other manufacturers and suppliers, GM has gradually loaded more vehicles with active-safety technologies that are precursors to a car that could pilot itself—night vision, blind-spot alerts, lane-change warnings, adaptive cruise control, brake assist. Next year GM aims to be the first automaker to bring vehicle-to-vehicle communication—cars “talking” to one another in an effort to avoid collisions—to market, in a 2017 Cadillac CTS. “It’s a step-by-step progression—some of the things we introduced in 2010 and 2011 are now trickling down into our production cars,” says John Capp, GM’s global director of safety strategies and vehicle programs.

要想真正实现FNR所号称的全自动驾驶功能,还有大量工作要做。过去三年来,有关自动汽车的研发费用在通用汽车70多亿美元的研发费用中占了大头。和其他厂商及供应商一样,通用汽车也逐渐为更多车型搭载了各种主动安全技术:夜视、盲点预警、变道警示、自适应巡航、刹车辅助等等。而这些技术正是自动驾驶汽车 的先驱。明年,通用计划在2017款凯迪拉克CTS上实现车车沟通——汽车能彼此“交谈”以避免碰撞,成为首个达成这一目标的厂商。通用汽车安全战略与汽车计划全球总监约翰•凯普表示:“这是一个逐渐进步的过程——我们2010年和2011年推出的一些功能现在正逐渐用于量产车上。”

 

Other, more luxury-oriented companies, including Audi and Mercedes-Benz, are closer to putting autonomous vehicles on the road. But GM executives say that by 2030, that may not matter. “How will the consumer interface with and experience all this technology—will it really help, or will it become a secondary burden?” asks Bryan Nesbitt, GM China vice president of design. The automakers that integrate the tech most successfully, Nesbitt says, will come out ahead.

而其他豪华品牌,比如奥迪和梅赛德斯奔驰,则更接近让自动驾驶汽车上路这一目标。但通用汽车的高管表示,到了2030年,这可能就无关紧要了。通用汽车中国公司的设计副总裁布莱恩•奈斯比特的问题是:“消费者到底会如何与这种技术互动并体验它呢——它是真的有利于驾驶,还是会变成另一种负担?”他说,只有那些将所有自动驾驶技术成功整合在一起的厂商才会获得领先地位。

 

As integration advances, self-driving cars will generate myriad problems that will have to be solved. Industry experts are now debating who will own the data autonomous vehicles will generate; how to get cities, counties, and countries to agree on infrastructure standards and liability issues; and how carmakers can own a consumer’s experience at the brand level while offering near-complete personalization to drivers. Says EY automotive analyst Jean-François Tremblay: “Just as Nike is now a wellness company and no longer a shoemaker, carmakers are no longer just manufacturers but also mobility-service providers.”

随着这种整合的进展,自动驾驶汽车也会引发很多有待解决的问题。业内专家现在争论的焦点问题是,谁将拥有这些车辆产生的数据;如何才能让不同城市和乡镇就基础设施标准和法律责任问题达成一致;厂商在为驾驶者提供几乎完全个性化体验的同时,如何才能掌控消费者对相关汽车品牌的体验。安永咨询公司汽车分析师珍•弗兰•特伦不莱表示:“就像耐克公司现在是一家健康服务公司而不再是制鞋企业一样,汽车厂商也将不再只是生产厂商,而是所谓的移动服务供应商。”

 

Back at Metalcrafters last month, such macro musings seemed far away as the craftsmen raced to finish the prototype “build,” attaching the last of the thousands of hand-painted body panels and testing the more than 240 feet of LED lighting. At last, one technician delicately remote-controlled the 192-inch-long wonder into a specially built shipping container—its home until its arrival in Shanghai.

上个月,在Metalcrafters公司那间工作室里,这类宏大思考还显得太遥远。当时,技师们正为了完成原型车全力以赴,他们要把上千块车身部件的 最后一块拼接好,还要测试240多英尺长的LED灯带。最后,一位技师小心翼翼地遥控着这辆车长192英寸的杰作驶入一个特制的船运集装箱——这是它抵达上海前的小家。

2016-06-23

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