Futurism at the L.A. Show

Mazda Souga

The L.A. Auto Show, running now through December 13, has for six years featured Design Challenge, a competition for design studios to explore futuristic ideas and compete in the world of computerized (i.e., non-physical) concepts. This year they are tackling the idea of “Youthmobile 2030”—how young people will connect to the automobile 20 years from now.

Some of the ideas are far-out nutty; all are interesting. Mazda won the competition last year—and again this year—with the Souga concept seen above. Young buyer Max, says the blurb, helps design his car on a virtual website, the car is then produced for sale at $2000 [sic], and Max pays “a monthly bill for the energy his electric car uses (similar to cell phone business model).” Yes, the car as cell phone, complete with exorbitant monthly charges.

GM's OnStar Car HeroGM’s OnStar Car Hero (left) combines video gaming with driver’s ed. As your driving skills improve, the car’s configuration changes to reward and challenge your abilities. The “transmorphable” architecture changes the car from a 4- to a 3- to a 2- and finally a 1-wheeled vehicle to provide our youthful gamer-driver his ultimate challenge. I don’t want to be inside when the car’s training wheels are all finally retracted.

The Honda Helix (below) adapts its shape and material properties to the user’s DNA. That’s right, the car becomes semi-human. The designers Honda Helixput it this way:

By using flexible and transforming multi-functioning parts, the Helix adapts and reacts to specific environments and traffic patterns by changing the orientation of its main capsule for optimal environmental operation and user functionality. Bio-receptors allow the vehicle to micro-adjust even further to meet the exact demands of the user and the environment. The direction of movement stays constant no matter what conformation the vehicle assumes.

Well, thank God for that! If the car becomes a snake, at least it will move forward.

nissan-v2g-conceptThe Nissan V2G concept explores the idea of the smart grid, that is, electrified roads. As one website notes, the car looks “like a giant robot lobster” but, says Nissan, it will be very affordable, “wildly popular,” and will operate both on-grid and off.

There are other entries in Design Challenge from Audi and Toyota, but which one of the above do you think seems most likely to come alive?

—jgoods

1 Comment

  1. Some enthusiastic entries but anyone who knows about automotive engineering knows that not a single one of these vehicles would last five miles on a typical road in Michigan or New Jersey. The worst ideas of all are those that install ever-increasing levels of attention robbing telecommunications. There are quite a few cars on the road today with systems that make them a hazard to everyone else on the road because they can cause so much driver distraction. Frankly, we won’t be ready for high levels of interactive content until we have autonomous highway systems. When the vehicle can safely guide itself to its destination, then the occupants can dedicate their full attention to playing video games, sexting and watching porno or twittering.

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