Chrysler Portal Concept Brings FCA Into Autonomous Connected Car Game – Forbes
For the first time, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has held a key event at CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, introducing the Chrysler Portal, a futuristic people mover. It is technology-laden, including the promise of a 250-mile range battery electric powertrain and high connectivity, as well as a healthy dose of FCA’s ability to design an interior space that can lead the pack in family-friendly flexibility. As fellow Forbes.com contributor Doug Newcomb wrote, it is designed by and for the millennial generation. Ths means a vehicle that supports tech-savvy, connected, on-demand lifestyles, which also demonstrates a progressive development by FCA to leverage supplier partner relationships. The concept puts Fiat Chrysler into the game on autonomous technology and engineering. The front-wheel-drive battery-electric concept is also capable of semi-autonomous operation and engineered to be upgradable to higher levels of autonomy and technology. The concept puts Fiat Chrysler into the game on autonomous technology and engineering.
The Portal’s connectivity and in-car media consumption technologies could support an FCA transition to an automotive market with new forms of mobility and ownership. Unlike BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM and Volkswagen, FCA has not taken a significant plunge into alternative mobility solutions and developing potential business models to support them up to now. The concept Portal has technology that would support such alternative mobility applications, including facial and voice recognition and the ability to share media content between passengers in a central zone, ability to enjoy music at each seating position without headsets or without infringing on other passengers, and a driver-to-passenger intercom system.
One fresh assumption that FCA has made in developing the vehicle is that millennials will keep their vehicles longer. IHS Markit research on the average age of vehicles in the US, while not specific to the millennial generation, has shown that the average length of ownership of new vehicles grew to 79.3 months in 2015 and the average length of ownership for used vehicles nearly 66 months; growth of these figures support FCA’s observation that people are looking to hold their vehicles longer. Millennials, and other generations, will respond positively as automakers increasingly explore how to address demand for an upgradable ownership experience in a complex and fixed physical product—a product also required to keep you and your family safe in accidents, at high speeds and under incredibly varied conditions. No small challenge there.
FCA smartly leveraged supplier partnerships for the concept, including Adient for the seating solutions; Magneti Marelli for advanced lighting systems; Panasonic Automotive for the intelligent Panasonic Cognitive Infotainment Platform, wireless connectivity and audio systems; and Samsung Electronics for the cameras and screens. Regarding Panasonic and that supplier’s impact on user experience, Scott Thiele, head of purchasing and supplier quality at FCA said, “Working with Panasonic Automotive on this concept vehicle is just one example of how FCA is engaging strategic suppliers early in the development phase to bring to life innovations that can become industry benchmarks.” Particularly for smaller players, targeted supplier partnerships may be borne out of necessity, but may prove to be solid strategy.
The Portal addresses autonomous driving at a level which still requires a human to be alert and ready to intervene even in the limited situations in which the vehicle is handling the driving tasks. The Portal has several methods for monitoring the attention of a driver and for alerting the driver to take over—as well as a fail safe for pulling the vehicle to the side of the road if it determines the human simply is not paying enough attention— but the challenge of getting a driver to re-engage is significant and will be difficult to execute well.