So after the PR team affixed stickers to the front and back lenses of my iPhone, they gave me and other reporters a tour of the facility. It ended with a ride in one of the company's 12 prototype cars and a look at the final design. The ride was impressive, and the design is striking. But as the day progressed it became clear that Faraday is cramming a ton of features into its first car. It's hard enough to build an automobile, but to make your first one this complex doesn't seem like the best plan if Faraday is truly in such dire financial straits.
As we were led through the offices, we were given a series of presentations about how the company is building its first car. Faraday is extremely proud of how it used VR to design the vehicle (other automakers do that) and talked at length about how its computer-model simulations of impacts were nearly identical to real-world collisions. That's great when you're figuring out how to build the safest frame without crash testing a bunch of prototypes.
Then it came time to discuss the features and, boy, does this car have a lot of them. According to Faraday it will be the most connected vehicle in the industry. Think multiple modems connecting to any and all available carriers for the best network speed. The idea is to get the best that carriers have to offer in an area so you can stream movies, games and whatever else you need to be entertained in the car.
The vehicle will also have seamless entry via either your Bluetooth-enabled phone or facial recognition/iris detection. The latter is possible thanks to a camera in the B-pillar (the panel between the front and back doors). Oh, and by the way, that external pillar will also have a display that will "illuminate with an owner confirmation sequence that brightens based on proximity."
Once you're in the car, a driver or passenger's "FFID" will be used to adjust the chair, cue up her favorite music and movies, and set the ideal temperature and driving style. That's accomplished by even more facial-recognition cameras. Faraday says the recognition information will be stored in the car for security reasons.
Once you do get rolling, there will be some autonomous features to take advantage of. One includes self-parking. An over-the-air update for the FF 91 will eventually give the car the ability to drop you off at the front of a store and, using Lidar, find a parking space. If you've ever been to a busy mall, this is a godsend. But it also requires Faraday to map out and verify parking lots for it to work.
All of this is being developed in-house. On one hand that's impressive for such a small company, but on the other it means that it could run up the price of the vehicle if and when it goes on sale. The staggering number of features demoed during the tour made it difficult to even guess at the eventual price of the FF 91.
Continuing our overview, the doors have radar and an internal braking system so that when you open them, they won't hit a wall or a pole. Instead of handles, the car has buttons. The combined motors (one in the front and one in the rear for all-wheel drive) will output 1,050 horsepower. It has "mood" lighting across the front and sides to indicate to other drivers and pedestrians if the car is on driver, autonomous or ride-sharing mode. It has a range of 378 miles. The back seats lean back like you're sitting in first class on a plane. (This list seemed to grow larger and larger as the tour progressed, and it's clear that this will be an expensive SUV.)
Finally we were treated to a ride in one of the company's 12 prototypes. The exterior was covered in camouflage while the interior was a jumble of computers, wires and exposed metal.
We were then told of another feature. The car has four-wheel steering that automatically adjusts to different driving situations. At low speeds it has what looked like an impressive turning circle, although the company wouldn't share actual details. At high speeds while changing lanes it turns the rear wheels in parallel to the front tires for a smoother glide across the road.
During my ride the driver made sharp turns left and right through an invisible obstacle course to demo how well the SUV handles. Then he gave me taste of the speed it's capable of. Faraday boasts zero to 60 in 4.44 seconds, and while I didn't have a stopwatch, it felt every bit as fast as a Tesla Model S P100D. While I'm unsure if the company can deliver its gigantic laundry list of bleeding-edge features, at least the car is capable of making adrenaline junkies happy.
As the day came to an end, the final design for the SUV was unveiled. Except for the Lidar puck that emerges from the hood (something that will clearly set the company up for ridicule), it looks like a luxury automobile with a few concept-car flourishes.
Because I wasn't allowed to take photos, I stared at the vehicle, trying to decide if the nearly 1,500 Faraday employees built the ultimate connected car or were just riding out the clock on a dream that could quickly disappear.
At the beginning of the tour Nick Sampson, SVP of R&D and engineering, said, "We don't put ourselves across as an automobile company or a car company. We're a completely different organization. We're technology. We're entertainment. We're many more things."
If everything goes south, he's right about one thing: The company is entertainment.
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