Kia pitched four autonomous car concepts at the start of probably the least autonomous-car-friendly show of the year. Surrounded by gearheads, enthusiasts and old-school muscle car fans -- the sort of people who don't want self-driving cars -- the Korean automaker pulled the wraps from the Niro Triathlon, the School of Rock Sedona, the Soul First Class and the Sorento Ski Gondola.
I should note that none of these concepts are actually autonomous cars. They're just a conceptual glimpse into Kia's crazy imagination of how autonomous cars could be customized to meet some oddly specific needs in the future.
The Kia Niro Triathlon is an autonomous concept designed to help a triathlete train for racing. It's sort of like a robotic support crew on wheels.
The Triathlon has had part of its roof and D-pillar removed to create a small bed area that can lock in and carry a Felt IA 2 road-racing bike while the triathlete is running or swimming and provide easy access to the bike and cycling gear when it's time for the cycling leg. The autonomous hybrid could then lead and keep pace with the cyclist, projecting an LED laser bike lane onto the road with ONEU safety laser bike lane light and displaying the current time on a fold-out display.
When the training is over, the athlete can access the cabin via the passenger side of the Niro Triathlon, which has had its B-pillar removed and the back door rear-hinged to allow extra easy access to the cabin, which features an ultra-comfortable Human Touch zero gravity ergonomic reclining chair that can cradle the tired triathlete for the ride home.
School of Rock Sedona
Next, there's the School of Rock Sedona. It starts with a safe, autonomous minivan concept and then totally throws out the cabin because you don't really need a dashboard or windshield in a car designed to drive itself.
In place of the steering wheel and pedals is a digital mixer board that can capture audio from studio microphones scattered around the sound-isolated cabin. With a rock-and-roll theme, it's a recording studio on wheels.
It's a good thing the School of Rock Sedona boasts storage space in the roof rack, because the rear storage is occupied by a pair of massive amplifiers that allow its young rockers to hop out and put on a roadside show anywhere.
Soul First Class
This Kia Soul (probably an EV, based on the grille design) has been transformed into an autonomous commuter with something akin to first class airline accommodations.
The cabin has been stripped and the front buckets replaced with rear-facing recliners that face a massive 40-inch Samsung LED TV connected to a Mac Mini computer system at the back of the Soul's boxy body. The display and other cabin comfort features are controlled by a custom motorized center console that houses a pair of iPad tablets.
Sorento Ski Gondola
The last concept is probably the most ridiculous and most awesome of the four.
The Sorento Ski Gondola concept rides on Dominator Rubber Tracks that have been powder-coated orange. The tank tracks give the Sorento enough grip to operate as a ski lift, tackling snow and ice as it autonomously ferries skiers and snowboarders to the top of the mountain.
The custom SUV features storage for skis and other equipment up top and suicide-style doors to allow easy access to the cabin for skiers wearing bulky gear. The cabin features a durable waterproof Line-X treatment and black and orange leather to complement the orange and silver paint of the Sorento's exterior.
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