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November 25, 2014

What next for driverless cars?

By City Monitor Staff

In the cars we’ve used for the past century, the layout of windows, lights, mirrors and seats are all arranged around the driver. It’s pretty surprising, then, that the current stock of driverless cars look just like, well, cars. Part of the reason may be that most of these models still require more traditional driving techniques to take over, but in future, the role of driver may disappear entirely. If it does, what’s to stop designers from starting from scratch?

The organisers of the 11th annual Los Angeles Auto Show wondered the same thing, and, for the show’s design competition, they asked designers to imgagine how cars will look by 2029. Here are four key features the designers proposed:

1. Moldable interiors

The interior of this catchily named “human/machine interface concept” from Acura and Honda R&D Americas is made from a flexible material that users can push or pull to form the interior they want. Using biometrics, the walls would “learn” each passenger’s preferences and mold to match. It’s basically a futuristic memory-foam mattress. 

2. No seats

Honda won the competition with their CARpet design which, through of a feat of radical innovation, has no seats. Instead, passengers recline on the car’s undulating carpet. The design also features a ball, which passengers can use to control the car. 

We imagine the flying carpet vibe inspired the name, though the dog in the rendering above presumably has something to do with it, too. Let’s hope it comes with the car.

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3. Cars which morph into other types of car

Infiniti Design San Diego created the Synpatiq racecar, which is able to compete in leg of a car triathalon (no, we didn’t know that was a thing either). For the first leg, it’s a Formula 1 car; for the second, it morphs into a desert bugy; and for the final leg, it transforms into a small jet. 

If we’re honest, though, the “transformations” aren’t quite as amazing as they first sound: the design actually allows the same “universal cockpit” to be slotted into different types of vehicle.  

4. Cars that act like personal assistants

Qoros Design Shanghai came up with Q, a vehicle which memorises your favourite destinations, music and smells (we’re not sure how it would do this or why you would want it to), and serves them up accordingly. Perhaps more usefully, it also switches to automatic mode if it senses the user’s acting “irresponsibility” while driving: a bit like that helpful friend/colleague who won’t let you drive home drunk.

So there you have it. If these designers have it right, future cars will pander to our every whim: whether that whim be to flit from land rover to jet at a moment’s notice or travel surrounded by the scent of toast. Hah! And they say humanity is doomed.

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