Some of us in this business are getting mighty bored of seeing autonomous cars that just promise to take us here and there with our seats swiveled toward each other, movie screens covering the windows, or whatever. Kia feels our pain and offers to soothe it with these vehicles that leverage autonomy to enhance our most extreme lifestyle pursuits. The automaker originally debuted these custom vehicles at the 2016 SEMA Show, but dusted them off for an encore in Chicago.
Kia Sorento Ski Gondola
Don’t you hate it when the sweetest slopes are not served by any sort of formal skiing infrastructure? Heli skiing is so expensive. Well, Kia has you covered. Providing the slope isn’t too ridiculously steep, you just climb aboard this ski chalet on tracks and let it propel you to the top in warmth and comfort. Hop out, grab the skis and poles off the roof rack, tighten down those boot bindings and away you schuss. Your autonomous gondola follows you back down the hill with the ability to stop and help if you go down hard (providing you can climb onboard yourself or get help from a fellow skier).
Built by LUX Motorwerks, the Ski Gondola replaces the Sorento’s wheels with a set of go-anywhere Dominator rubber tracks, their structure powder-coated orange. The driver side B-pillar is removed, and the rear door opens suicide-style to provide a giant entryway for thickly clothed skiers. Inside, the trim is accented with orange stitching, piping, and stripes. The floor has a waterproof Line-X coating to shed any melting snow that comes in on boots.
Kia Niro Triathlon
Any triathlete will tell you that training to become a true iron man (or woman) can be an arduous and solitary pursuit. Kia seeks to facilitate this training process by customizing its new Niro hybrid to not only carry all the gear a triathlete needs but also to provide a relaxing refuge for him or her at the end of an grueling training session.
To do this, the craftsmen at LGE-CTS Motorsports removed the roof from the A-pillar back to provide room for the custom bike rack, toolbox, and tablet computer mount. The bike mount holds the Felt IA 2 road-racing bike securely for transport or repair. The ONEU safety laser bike lane illuminates a laser LED bike lane behind the vehicle, and the tablet displays vital information such as speed, time, and distance covered as the Niro sets the pace. At the end of the training session, the triathlete climbs into the Human Touch zero gravity ergonomic reclining chair and rides home, dissecting data or watching entertainment on the tablet.
The suspension is lowered 2 inches, and the 18-inch Method Rally Race wheels are shod in 265/35R18 Dunlop Direzza sport tires. The passenger-side B-pillar is removed, and the front and rear doors open a full 90 degrees for ease of access to the gear stowage compartments and the reclining chair.
Kia School of Rock Sedona
Did you know that School of Rock isn’t just a Broadway musical? Nope, it’s also a real music school operating in over 180 locations. There’s even a Preschool of Rock in Jersey City, NJ. This concept envisions remarkably trusting School of Rock parents packing their young’uns off to school or to weekend gigs in this autonomous jam-session studio. The School of Rock Sedona comes completely equipped with everything an aspiring musician could want: recording equipment, a place to chill, and a completely hands-free way of getting from one gig to the next. Where the steering wheel and instrument panel were is now a mixing board and two flat-screen monitors to record tracks. A boom mic hangs from the ceiling for vocalists, acoustic foam panels line the interior of the van, an impressive stack of amps is accessible from the rear hatch, and there’s loads of instrument storage inside. Band members can lounge or jam from the comfort of beanbag chairs. Once again the driver B-pillar has been removed to an ultra-wide opening. We’re betting that any version marketed to parents would also include geo-fencing, camera monitors, and smoke detectors…