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Autolust | The Chrysler Portal Concept at CES 2017

"Designed by Millennials for Millennials," the Chrysler Portal Concept from CES 2017 is as much about technology as transportation.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

These days, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is as much a flashy, “what if” car show as a technology conference. The automakers use the massive event to debut their more futuristic and speculative ideas. Fiat Chrysler got a jump on all of the high tech insanity of CES 2017 by debuting its new Portal Concept vehicle before the show kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Looking to foresee the car market of the next five to 10 years, Chrysler set the tagline for the vehicle as “…a car for millennials by millennials.” The automaker employed a team of appropriately aged design “influencers” to guide the creation of the vehicle to make certain it included what millennials desired.

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With that millennial theme firmly in mind, let’s get all of the one-liners over with and push them all out of our systems:

  • The original name for the car was not the Chrysler Snowflake.
  • The car does not have a self-drive mode in which it invariably winds up back in its parents’ garage.
  • There isn’t a special padded trunk called a “safe space.”
  • The machine does not believe it is entitled to free fuel.
  • The car does not chase organic food trends.
  • Designers did not skip including a horn because beeps are considered micro aggressions.
  • The vehicle was not designed to help Logan escape Carousel when he turns 30.
  • The car doesn’t take endless selfies.

Actually, that last one is partly true. The Portal does snap in-car selfies of drivers and passengers, but not of itself. You get a point for that one. And I liked the Logan’s Run reference. Beyond that, let’s get all of the giggles out and consider what glimpses of our potential automotive future this Chrysler Portal offers.

Also: Autolust | The Toyota Setsuna Concept

It’s clear that this Portal is a genuine effort by Fiat Chrysler to demonstrate the outlying reaches of the company’s research and development. Much of the newest technology in this car is still in the testing phases, but its implementation into cars, trucks and SUVs is imminent. This isn’t some metallic pile of “flying car” whimsy. What this concept can do on the CES 2017 floor, the cars of the next few years will do on the roads — whether we’re driving them or not.

The millennial branding is a serious step for Fiat Chrysler and every other automaker. That oft-scorned generation is now becoming the largest consumer sector. They’re also getting older, holding down jobs, starting families and gathering disposal income. Companies around the world (within and outside the automotive industry) hold daily meetings, banging their collective heads against conference tables and struggling to decode what millennial consumers want to buy and how they make purchasing choices. The Portal is Chrysler’s practical stab at answering such questions.

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As conceived at CES 2017, the Portal is an all-electric, partially self-driving family transport vehicle. The themes running through its design capture many of the buzzwords coined or redefined by millennials, such as customization, multi-tasking and connectivity. For example, the interior of the car steps away from the traditional understanding of seating, offering an evolving arrangement of passenger and storage space that can change with the driver’s needs.

The Portal’s designers and influencers looked to build their car from the inside out, focusing heavily on forging the concept of “third space,” or an environment within the car enabling driver and passengers to express themselves, connect with other drivers and check in at home or work without the need of additional devices. A complete suite of in-car apps link the vehicle to the driver’s entire world.

Chrysler Portal Concept user experience. Once at the destination, interior and exterior cameras can capture the moment with a selfie, which is then automatically downloaded to everyone’s personal device and can be shared via social media

The exterior resembles an illuminated, portal-shaped pod on wheels, with dual sliding doors on both sides and large rear doors that allow for easy entering, exiting and loading. Lighting systems within and outside the vehicle set desired mood while also communicating with other vehicles and the surrounding world.

The in-vehicle communication systems and wireless network allows community social sharing among passengers and through internet cloud-based apps. All hands onboard can download music or entertainment, order food, check on home security or monitor their business from the car’s own systems without the need of a separate device. The Portal offers that glimpse toward a time when our homes, cars, workplaces and online social identities all merge and work with each other.

As seen here, with all of its 21st century bells and whistles, the Chrysler Portal will never see showrooms (if brick and mortar showrooms still exist beyond tomorrow). For example, FCA doesn’t yet have an engine sorted out to meet its all-electric, long range performance expectations. The in-car features work for CES demos, but the Portal seems destined to remain a concept.

Even though it will not be manufactured for sale, features and functions within this millennial-mobile will exist in Chrysler’s future builds. The Portal was never intended as a whole concept package — a “take it or leave it,” “as is” proposition. It’s a demonstration model to show what the automaker can manage technologically now and what it sees inside its cars in the future for this up and coming generation of buyers about to come into its purchasing prime.