Chrysler concept envisions autonomous, connected future

Chrysler showed off a snazzy concept minivan full of futuristic bits of tech and engineering this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It’s called the Chrysler Portal and it embodies how Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) thinks a self-driving family hauler would work.

“FCA is a leader in family transportation and it was essential that we fully explored the idea of what a vehicle could look like for this emerging generation,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger car brands for Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and Fiat.

Most of the interesting bits of the car can be found inside, which is accessed through two sliding doors on each side of the car that slide to the front and to the back. Chrysler refers to this as the “third space” behind our home and office spaces.

The six seats in the car can fold flat, move forward or back along tracks, or even be removed entirely to maximize interior space.

Chrysler leaders say they had today’s young adults in mind when designing the car, as they’re the ones who will need the bigger family vehicles in the future. To accommodate all these passengers’ smartphones and tablets, the Portal includes eight docking stations scattered around to power and secure various devices.

There’s even more technological wizardry, like facial and voice recognition that can be used to pre-set things like lighting, favorite music and information about common destinations.

Something called Personal Zoned Audio allows different passengers to listen to their own music without bothering others. It also will amplify the sounds of approaching emergency vehicle sirens, which sounds like a good safety idea.

Since it’s just a concept of a potential future, the Portal is designed to be fully autonomous or controlled by a driver (with various levels of autonomy in between). The little protrusions on the roof and front pillars are the sensors to enable fully automated driving.

Powering the van is an all-electric system. The batteries, rated at about 100 kWh, are nestled under the floor of the car.

Chrysler estimates the car could travel more than 250 miles on a full charge, and a 350 kW fast-charging system would provide a range of about 150 miles in less than 20 minutes.

Don’t rush down to your local Chrysler dealer expecting to pick up your own Portal, however. For now, it’s purely a concept vehicle but provides an interesting look at how autonomous driving (riding?) could work in the future.

It is also noteworthy that FCA decided to introduce this tech-heavy car at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, instead of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week. In fact, FCA has no press conferences currently scheduled for the Detroit auto show.