Alan Taub 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Crash-proof vehicles should be on the road within the next decade, the visiting
vice president of global R&D for General Motors said Thursday at a press
conference in Herzliya, at which he outlined the company’s vision and discussed
its operations in Israel.
“The technology road maps that we have, and
that others in the industry have, start to make vehicles that don’t crash a
reality,” Alan Taub said, adding that he supports the time line set by rival
company Volvo that such vehicles will be on the road by the year
However, Taub said GM would have to bring down the costs of
producing such cars. Also, while crash-proof vehicles “might become a commercial
reality by the end of this decade,” the continued use of non-crash-proof cars
would mean we would be “living in this mixed environment world for probably
another 15 to 20 years,” he said. “Remember, a vehicle that doesn’t crash can
still be crashed into.”
Taub, who arrived at the press conference
straight from an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in
Jerusalem, said he was “very impressed with the talent he saw at GM’s Israeli
“This represents one of our eight research labs around
the world, but it has already established itself as our center of excellence in
vision systems, in speech recognition and in the growing effort in robotics; in
fact, so much so that we’ve run out of room in this building,” he said,
referring to the fact that GM Israel will move to new headquarters in Herzliya
in the coming month.
One of the major projects currently being undertaken
in Israel has to do with the company’s new hybrid electric vehicle, the
Chevrolet Volt. Two Volts are about to be brought to the country, where they
will be used to test sensor technology and active safety systems, among other
The Volt is expected to be available to the Israeli public by
2012, although the question of whether they will be cheaper or more expensive
than Renault’s Fluence EV – which electric-vehicle service provider Better Place
will begin selling later this year for NIS 122,900 – remains
Taub stressed that carmakers must literally reinvent the
wheel to move ahead. The DNA set for vehicles in the 1920s had served the world
well, he said, but a revolution was needed in the automobile’s second
The “enabler for the reinvention of our vehicles is electronic
control software,” he said.
“We know the present vehicle cannot be a
sustainable solution for the future,” Taub said. “We’ve spent 100 years
basically totally dependent on petroleum to fuel our vehicles. Even today they
are still over 96 percent petroleum- fueled. That is not a sustainable
Only about 7% of energy in the tank of a petroleum-fueled
vehicle is actually used on moving the car, he said.
“We have plans to
get us on diverse renewable energy – everything from natural gas to electricity
and hybrid – and we need to develop the infrastructure and vehicle technology in
concert with each other,” Taub said.
GM’s blueprint for that future is
its “electric network vehicle” concept, or ENV, which was unveiled at the China
Expo in Shanghai last year. They are two-seat electric vehicles designed for
built-up urban areas, and the power for their motors is provided by lithium-ion
batteries that produce zero emissions.
By combining GPS with
vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies, GM says the
ENV vehicle will be driven both manually and autonomously, bringing it to the
crash-proof level that Taub talked about.