Image: Rivian

Californian electric vehicle start-up Rivian Automotive, founded 2009, has hit the headlines this week with the unveiling of two tough-looking, load-carrying, active-outdoors models: the R1T, a five-seater pick-up truck, and the R1S, a seven-seater SUV [pictured]. These are both to be built in the USA in Normal, Illinois, and are based on a skateboard chassis which supports quad motors and a battery pack claimed to give a 400-mile range. Battery range is boosted by adaptive control algorithms which ‘learn’ driver behaviour to optimize battery management and thus their lifespan, reliability and ultimately, reusability.

In addition to distinctive exterior design and well-thought-out interiors with a high-quality appearance, an advanced level of technology is promised. The vehicles connect to a cloud ecosystem for over-the-air software updates, enabling machine learning and data services; a high-speed ethernet backbone is said to ensure “robust security”. The system has been designed from scratch to incorporate mobile and web applications, with maps, music, navigation and outdoors adventure-related functions, and the digital interface is said to offer an immersive, seamless user experience.

The hardware suite from launch will include camera, LiDAR, radar, ultrasonic and high-precision GPS with HD mapping, enabling Level 3 hands-off driving for highway use. Rivian adds that “beyond the highway Level 3, the vehicle will have a range of self-driving features focused on enabling active lifestyles”.

BMW hides its tech

P90330729_lowRes_bmw-vision-inext-11--300x200 Image: BMW

The BMW Vision iNEXT is another, different, take on the future electric SUV theme. On show in Los Angeles in concept form, it previews BMW’s approach to digital displays as increasing levels of autonomy and connectivity are integrated: inside its warm and luxuriously-upholstered cabin, there is a deliberate attempt to keep the technology unobtrusive and only deployed as needed or requested.

Rather than fitting multiple screens or buttons, the smart-surface fabrics and materials house controls for certain functions, helping to create a relaxing interior space. It is scheduled for production in 2021.