The 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show is off and running, but across the globe, there's another prominent automotive event happening in southern China. Auto Guangzhou 2021 is showing all kinds of current and future offerings for the Chinese market, and Buick has an interesting take on the future with two prominent concepts called the GL8 Flagship and Smart Pod.
We'll start with the GL8 Flagship because it previews an actual vehicle. Buick currently offers its GL8 MPV (don't call it a minivan) in China, and this concept offers a taste of future models. And what a taste it is, starting with a bold face that smoothly transitions to a glass roof stretching the entire length of the vehicle. Beneath the glass is a flexible interior that offers multiple seat layouts and even includes a tea tray.
Gallery: Buick GL8 Flagship Concept
Up front, the driver gets a 30-inch display as well as a touchscreen on the steering wheel and a heads-up display, all situated in an open space devoid of a center console. As with pretty much every concept vehicle these days, the driver isn't necessary thanks to advanced autonomous capability.
The GL8 Flagship at least has provisions for a driver. The Smart Pod concept is completely driver-free, utilizing the Ultimum platform to create what Buick calls "a bold design concept that looks at the full potential of advanced technologies in electrification, automated driving, and digitalized connectivity, delivered in a warm, tactile and luxurious manner."
Gallery: Buick Smart Pod Concept
The curiously named Smart Pod is pretty much just as the name suggests. Occupants climb inside for driverless transport, enjoying a luxurious space for passengers to work, sleep, or simply take in the sights while traveling from place to place. As such, the interior offers multiple configurations and includes features like noise-canceling tech, an air purifying system, and of course it's all made from sustainable materials.
An advanced artificial intelligence controls every aspect of the Smart Pod, and passengers control that AI through voice commands. That includes everything from ambient lighting to navigation, and with connectivity for personal devices as well as full internet functionality, the Smart Pod lives up to its name by serving as a mobile office.
The Smart Pod is strictly a concept, so don't expect to see anything like it in the near future. As for the GL8 Flagship concept, while it might offer a preview into the future, it's by no means a near-production sample of the next-generation GL8.