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Car and Driver: Kia Shoots Us In the Face Demonstrating Autonomous Soul EV’s Capabilities


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Kia Soul EV virtual reality


Among the more bizarre displays we found in various automakers’ booths at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show were autonomous-driving simulators. After all, what’s there to simulate? In both real life and the recreation, the “driver” merely sits there while stuff happens. Which is why we have to tip our hat to Kia for its jarring twist on this otherwise bland theme. To showcase its autonomous technology (being researched by its new “Drive-Wise” sub-brand), Kia created a virtual-reality, um, experience during which you ride in a self-driving Soul EV hatchback while engaging in a gun battle.


In Kia’s booth, we are handed virtual-reality goggles and headphones and are warned to put on our seatbelt before the experience begins. The action starts and the seats vibrate and jostle us around as we “awake” tied to a chair while a woman frantically frees us and hands our virtual character a gun. Loud bangs break out and—as we imagine most owners of future autonomous Kias will do—we found ourselves in a firefight with masked SWAT-looking types. The woman shouts something about getting Soul!, and after taking out what appear to be two police officers, we’re in an autonomous Soul speeding down an alley with two Kia Borrego SUVs in pursuit, shooting at us.


Kia virtual reality goggles

Few things are more embarrassing than wearing these. Although blindly taking a selfie while wearing these would be one.

It’s at this point that Kia begins to indoctrinate us to its autonomous future. (This is an informative virtual-reality trip, remember?) Our lady compatriot “activates autonomous mode,” buying her and my character valuable time to return fire at the Borrego crew still shooting at us. At one point, the self-driving Soul announces that it has detected an obstacle, and automatically emergency brakes to avoid a collision. Later, it senses another roadblock and declares that it is changing lanes to get around it. Meanwhile, my character is shot in the arm and ceases to be useful. (Although our man wasn’t terribly useful to begin with, save for apparently committing a felony shooting a cop earlier in the story.) Somebody fires an RPG at the pursuit vehicles, there’s a large explosion, and a fade sequence carries us again to a “waking moment” in our badly battered Soul EV. But wait! The Soul’s blind-spot monitor triggers a warning, and a masked, gun-wielding motorcyclist draws up next to the car and shoots my character in the face point-blank.


If this is our autonomous future, sign us up! Well, so long as Kia can improve the blind-spot monitoring to detect face-shooting assassins sooner. So will self-driving cars thrust us normal folk into mysterious car chases? Will future Kia interiors be magically resistant hot shell casings (our digital Soul’s cabin bore no marks)? Maybe, but the story doesn’t end there. Spoiler alert: Our virtual selves awake a third time behind the wheel of a self-driving Kia Soul. The woman from the gun battle sits in the passenger seat, only looking far more suburban. Our character has been daydreaming, while his Kia Soul autonomously plods down a highway. Dream sequences? Wake sequences? What is this, Kia? And to think, the whole time Kia’s booth representatives—and pretty much anyone walking by—had the privilege of observing us looking like a goggle-wearing moron.


2016 Consumer Electronics Show


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