Mobile World Congress 2019 made the perfect place to unveil the Seat Minimó. Like most modern cities, Barcelona has too many cars, bikes and scooters, but when the event is on the city is even more gridlocked than normal. It’s a hellish vortex of stationary traffic that centres on Fira, the venue where the tech action happens. Add on industrial action so public transport is patchy at best and Uber drivers being hounded out of town by irate taxi drivers and getting around is a time-consuming and tension-filled experience.
What you need then is the Seat Minimó, which says its creators, is a hyperconnected vehicle. Despite the nonsensical marketing blurb, the machine itself is cool enough. It’s not quite a car, and it ain’t a bike either, but it is just the sort of thing you could imagine battling your way around Barcelona’s streets in. We reckon it’d even go quite nicely on the pavements, just like cyclists tend to do, but that’s not legal so maybe not. Oh and it's just a concept, and while the one at MWC did exist it's not in a production-ready kind of way.
Nevertheless, people bored of looking at phones seemed to love it and perhaps that’s because the Seat Minimó quadricycle is, allegedly, a mobile techfest. It’s all-electric, but comes armed with a tiny footprint of just 3.1m^2 compared to a city car, which typically has a footprint of around 7.2m^2. Adding to its ability to squeeze into nightmarishly-tight city parking spaces are the thoughtfully designed asymmetrical doors that are suitably hinged so you can get in and out without any hint of a door ding on the vehicle next to you. The left door is actually smaller than the right, incidentally.
There’s adequate range too, with Seat claiming that the quadricycle could deliver 62 miles or 100 km on a single charge. That’s enough for a few trips to work, the gym, plus a Lidl or an Aldi too. And then back again. Possibly. Swappable battery packs, say its creators, would allow you to keep on truckin’ for as long as you like. There’s a single headlight, so you’ll be fine after darkness descends too. There’s also a 360-degree panoramic roof so you can watch the stars, when you haven’t got your eyes on the road that is. Got ‘stuff’, luggage or groceries-to-go? They can be mounted on the back.
So what of that hyperconnected claim? Well, Seat reckons the machine will feature digital key technology, with wireless Android Auto thrown in for good measure. A central digital display sits behind the steering wheel and operates in tandem with your smartphone. The whole shebang supposedly works together to get you across town while bashing out some rare tunes for good measure. Pretty standard fare really, so we’re not sure where the hyperconnected bit comes into the equation. But it is a concept after all, and bits have been made up.
The Seat Minimó is lightweight (2.5 metres long and a slender 1.24-metres wide) and nimble, however, so looks like it could be the perfect around town vehicle. You probably wouldn’t want to go far in it, although it sports two seats so you wouldn’t be lonely. That’s not the point anyway. More importantly, the funky vehicle’s unveiling coincided with another timely announcement from Seat with the company revealing that it had been working with computing giant IBM to find a solution that could transform driving in cities.
The so-called ‘Mobility Advisor’ harnesses the power of IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence to decide which mode of transport to use. From cars, scooters and bikes through to public transport – when they’re not on strike that is. It’s a collaboration that’s currently still in development, but the idea is that consumers would be able to use a mobile app running on 4/5G networks with the Mobility Advisor offering up advice from IBM’s Watson Assistant to provide the optimal route from A to B.
IBM Cloud data could supplement this advice by looking at other factors such as weather forecasts, traffic reports and events that might be happening. MWC springs to mind here… “Traffic congestion and environmental challenges are putting huge pressure on cities to transform,” said Jordi Caus, SEAT’s Head of New Urban Mobility Concepts. He wasn’t wrong either, as showgoers headed out of the Fira in a long, desperate and ultimately futile search for a way to get back to their hotels…