Kia has unveiled the HabaNiro Concept at this year’s New York International Auto Show, showcased with a fully-electric all-wheel-drive powertrain with a range of over 500 km. Measuring 4,430 mm long with a 2,830 mm wheelbase, 1,600 mm tall and 1,955 mm wide, the HabaNiro concept is capable of Level Five autonomous driving, says Kia.

The HabaNiro concept represents a ‘prescient look into the future of mobility’, says Kia. “We wanted this concept to be comfortable navigating city streets, carving turns on a coastal road and off-roading with confidence to remote wilderness adventures,” said vice president of design at Kia Design Center America (KDCA) Tom Kearns.

Finished in Snowdrift Pearl White, the concept electric SUV features metallic grey cladding around the front wheels which extends rearwards just aft of the front doors. The four doors open in a butterfly-wing fashion for access to the cabin unimpeded by B-pillars, while an aero panel along the C-pillar finished in Lava Red goes from the lower edge of the SUV to its roof.

Inside the HabaNiro is a cabin finished predominantly in red, featuring front seats designed to appear as if they are floating within the cabin. A very minimalist approach to controls features here, where traditional flat screens, control knobs and buttons are replaced by a full-width head-up display along the front windscreen, which is controlled by a concave acrylic touchscreen.

This control panel, along with the steering ‘wheel’ retract forwards away from the seats when autonomous driving is engaged, in order to increase available space for the front seat occupants. The full-width head-up display can display visual media such as movies for extended highway travels, says Kia.

Its autonomous driving capabilities are complemented by Kia’s Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (READ) system that was introduced earlier at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. READ observes and analyses a driver’s emotional state in real-time via AI-based bio-signal recognition technology, and then tailors the interior environment to its assessment to create more pleasing conditions and a safer drive.

The HabaNiro concept also employs an eye-tracking system together with its AI-based emotional intelligence to determine when the driver is looking up to the top of the windscreen, where the rear view mirror is typically located. This will inform the AI that he or she intend to look rearwards, and instantly activates the 180-degree rear-view video display.

Artifical intelligence and automation shouldn’t detract from the joy of driving, says Kia, but should instead enhance it by anticipating the driver’s needs so that he or she can focus on the driving experience. Closer to reality, the Kia Niro EV has already gone on sale, and the Korean automaker appears keen to emphasise ‘never say never’ in terms of the HabaNiro’s prospects. What do you think? Should Kia build it?

GALLERY: Kia Niro Hybrid