GM's Urban Car for China (continue)

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2010 GM EN-V Concept

The idea of allowing the car to take over may sound alarming to some, especially given the recalls due to unintended acceleration and other problems with some Toyota vehicles. But GM's experts say there would be fail-safe backups for any electronics and that, properly equipped and in the right setting, vehicles can do a better job than humans at averting accidents.

In theory, EN-Vs could be hitched together to allow drivers to commute to work while finishing up shaving, phone calls or whatever else without endangering fellow road warriors.

But such functions would have to be optional, Wale says.

"We don't want to take the excitement out of driving," he said.

The Shanghai Expo, with its theme of "Better City, Better Life," offers an apt occasion for GM to introduce its vision for a solution to the urban ills growing worse day-by-day thanks to China's craze for cars.

Whether China and its drivers — who seem inordinately fond of big, heavy cars and nearly acrobatic feats of lane switching — would go for this concept remains to be seen.

But GM does have a track record — at least in its distant past — of foreseeing at least some future trends. The GM "Futurama" vision of a superhighway system, introduced at the 1939 New York World's Fair, is said to have inspired the U.S. Interstate Highway System.

"We're looking at solutions for 2030," said Wale.

"We're looking at ways we can recreate the business we're in a way that takes into account the changes in the world since the products we're using today were invented under a different set of circumstances."

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