An autonomous driving electric vehicle may not take to the sky any time soon but could one day start to look a bit like The Jetsons' flying car — a glass bubble without the long hood that is a signature feature of today's gasoline-fueled cars.
The key game-changing technology behind that prospect is the electric motor — a relatively simple and compact propulsion system which allows automakers to eliminate the hood and the ample room underneath needed for a bulky internal combustion engine, an engine cooling apparatus, and complex transmission gears.
When that motor technology is combined with autonomous vehicle advances, the car not only no longer needs the hood but also what the industry calls crash zones.
The upshot: the EV shift might usher in the age of a bubble- or pod-shaped car like those popularised by the 1960s futuristic animated comedy series, The Jetsons.
"That is the next logical step," Karim Habib, the design chief for Nissan's premium brand Infiniti, told Reuters in an interview.
"It is definitely the next step, particularly if you image a world of zero accidents with autonomous drive technology fully working. If cars will never crash, the ultimate most efficient (shape) of a personal mobility could be a glass cube."