An electric sports car that can read your emotions?27 November 2015
Originally published in The Washington Post by Drew Harwell on September 14 2015 – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/09/14/porsches-tesla-killer-a-superfast-electric-sports-car-that-can-read-your-emotions
Porsche’s new 600-horsepower concept car, unveiled Monday at a German auto show, can speed from 0 to 60 mph in about three seconds — but that’s far from the most interesting thing hidden under the hood.
The four-seat sports car is, in a first for Porsche, all electric. Not only can the Mission E drive more than 300 miles without powering down, it can recharge almost completely within 15 minutes.
With that kind of power, the all-wheel-drive sports car is aimed squarely at taking out one of the luxury auto world’s surging titans: Tesla, the Elon Musk-run electric carmaker known for its widely celebrated Model S.
But the $100,000-plus Mission E, not fit to rest on its battery-powered laurels, also comes with some truly bizarre next-generation upgrades. One of them: An eye-tracking camera in the rearview mirror that “recognizes the driver’s good mood and shows it as an emoticon” on the dashboard — an odd bit of self reflection that can then be shared via social media, alongside the car’s route and speed.
Porsche hasn’t given an exact price or production time for the Mission E, and concept cars are known to overpromise and underdeliver. (As for the price, Porsche global head of research and development Wolfgang Hatz told the Los Angeles Times, “It will be competitive. … The Porsche is always worth its price.”)
That sports cars are now going electric — years after Tesla’s first all-electric, the Roadster, was criticized as not giving enough power for true sport driving — largely can be credited to just how well Tesla has won over luxury business.
The Model S has become a thorn in the luxury auto world’s side for all of its awards: It’s eco-friendly, luxuriously designed and increasingly high performance, including with the recent unveiling of Tesla’s ultra-fast “ludicrous mode.”
“Tesla has made as much noise with its car on its performance as it has on its environmental bent,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Porsche’s thinking, ‘We’re not only ceding ground to the Model S on their premium status, we’re ceding on performance, too.'”
The Mission E can recharge 80 percent within 15 minutes using an 800-volt “Porsche Turbo Charging” system, closely resembling that of Tesla’s Supercharger network, which spans 2,895 chargers from coast to coast.
But Porsche says the sports car would also offer some upgrades mostly unseen on the road. Eye-tracking cameras and gesture-controlled systems would help the driver take control, and 3-D displays move to follow the driver’s “seat position and body attitude.”
The emoticon-flashing driver camera struck some analysts as particularly strange. Some luxury cars, like Chevy’s new Corvette, come with dashboard cameras pre-installed, but rarely are they built to help drivers share how fast they were speeding.
“We’re not just making cars anymore. We’re making personal expressions,” Brauer said. “They may think: Why point the camera out the windshield when you can point it at me? If you’re the kind of person to spend more than $100,000 on a sports car, you might just be the kind of person wanting to share pictures of yourself, too.”