On the eve of the Paris Motor Show a barge carrying brightly coloured jumbo Barbour wellingtons floated on the Seine as the latest Land Rover was introduced by model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The day before, Stella McCartney had unveiled her cutely personalised Jaguar XJ; the ‘baby’ Jaguar had received a theatrical London debut a few weeks earlier.
Jaguar Land Rover’s recent dramatics could be perceived as over the top if not for the convincing new products. The company is cash rich – it certainly felt the envy of others under the hot fluorescent lights of the half-empty pavilions at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. JLR is spending wisely on carefully calculated cars across the range, opening up the marque to a wider, younger audience.
Its confidence is almost infectious. The big German three – BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, who hold hegemony in the premium sector – must be feeling a little pinched. One unnamed car designer compared today’s Jaguar with the Audi of 15 years ago, when it raced its way to the top.
In terms of trends at Paris, the crossover remains ubiquitous, overtaking the hatchback and people carrier. Theoretically, a hybrid of family-life practicality and fun, sporty motoring is a winning combination. Yet finding the right design remains a bit of a challenge. Notable exhibits at Paris included the Peugeot Quartz, Lexus NX 200t, Toyota C-HR and Fiat 500X.
Tiny urban runarounds also took centre stage in some pavilions, though given the urgency to downsize, there were surprisingly few pioneering concepts floating around. Smart’s latest ForFour is a cute little gadget and Mazda’s MX-5 is a roadster for the masses. Mini’s Superleggera Vision, too, is worth noting – a small, handsome roadster that signals a fresher direction for the brand.
There were few genuine surprises in Paris, though; the blogosphere certainly spoils the fun. Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off the much-anticipated GT by AMG. The marque is having a design renaissance and the latest product from its performance arm is a highly focused and exceptionally handsome car.
Lamborghini proved that superpower could marry sustainability with the Asterion LP1 910-4 show car, the Italian’s first plug-in hybrid. Elsewhere, Volkswagen did quite the opposite. The Ducati-powered XL Sport concept sees a V2 motor power the bullet body originally envisaged as the ultimate eco-car.
The pavilions of the Gallic hosts were equally inspired, with such concepts as the Citroën Divine DS, Peugeot Quartz and Renault Eolab on show. Some (Renault, for instance) were a little light on material, but overall the French do show cars extremely well. They are fun, innovative and full of drama – and we hope to see more of their daring design language translated to production cars.
WUHAN, China – Automotive design in China is still in its infancy, but the country’s growing power and influence will have a major impact on future vehicles, automotive designers working in China predict.
“Asia will definitely inspire many trends,” notes Diane Kloster, director-color and trim at the Volkswagen design studio in Shanghai. Chinese tastes already are felt in the food and cosmetics, and in their cars Chinese customers have demonstrated an interest in functionality, quality and safety.
“Fabrics used inside the car have to be lighter and should have a touch of sensuality,” Kloster says during a panel discussion of automotive design at the Global Automotive Forum here. “Chinese consumers are looking for a natural quality that offers joy and freedom from anxiety.
“Color is moving lighter. It’s a new kind of luxury,” Kloster says, noting young Chinese designers are bringing with them elements of the country’s strong artistic tradition with its respect for light.
“I think there is an incredible amount of talent in China. But experience is a factor,” says James Hope, design director at local automaker Chery. “Industry’s boomed, but finding designers that have put vehicles in production is very small.”
Chinese designers are putting aside the utilitarian tradition of the past half-century and quickly catching up with current design trends in the global industry, says Hope, who works in Shanghai. The world’s largest city is emerging as the country’s center of automotive design due to its concentration of major studios companies have set up.
In 2013, the Chery TX concept SUV, designed in the automaker’s Shanghai studio, was named Concept Car of the Year for 2012 by the U.K. publication Car Design News. It was the the first time a design from a Chinese studio won the award.
Hope, who worked on exterior design for General Motors before joining Chery in 2012, believes the design of indigenous Chinese cars has improved dramatically in recent years.
“There (once) was quite a gap between Western and Chinese automakers. But if you walked through the Beijing Auto Show this year, you could see some of the Chinese brands were surpassing some of the Western brands,” he says. “I attribute it to how fast the industry is moving.”
Chinese car designs “were a joke, and they’re not anymore. Chinese automakers have made massive improvements,” Hope says. He concedes Chinese companies imported “expat” car designers to help with the transition, but adds a lot of talent now is coming out of local design schools.
Guy Burgoyne, chief director-interior design at Geely, says designers in China are following the broader trends that are reshaping the industry.
When he began his career more than 20 years ago, the job of the interior designer was “to cover the holes in the sheetmetal.” Interior design now is a critical part of any vehicle, he says.
“Cars are also part of the fashion industry. The car says something about the driver. A plastic bag or a handbag from Vuitton does the same thing, don’t they? The plastic bag for some is (the) means to an end, but for others the journey is as important as the destination.”
But there are 250 components in the interior of the car that need the designer’s touch, compared with 50 on the outside. “Let’s talk about finding the balance,” Burgoyne says.
Exterior styling still is a statement, Hope says. But at Chery, color and trim is becoming the most important element of the car’s design, notes Hope, who says his studio uses a horizontal organization chart where exterior, interior and color and trim are equal.
At the same time, Hope says, designers have to have address the rapid changes in technology that are reshaping the automobile in China and are attracting keen interest from customers.
The human-machine interface has become much more important for designers in an era of touchscreens, organic LEDs, occupant-recognition technology, touch-sensitive surfaces and augmented-reality features that bring a new dimension into the cockpit of a vehicle, he says.
Magnus Aspegren, head of BMW Design Works USA in Southern California, notes designers at the same time must convince consumers they still want to drive.
“We’re selling this incredible experience” of freedom and joy, he says. “It moves and responds to your needs and wants. As car designers, we felt that passion and joy.”
However, megacities with millions of residents run counter to the automobile’s century-old promise of greater freedom. “You don’t want to drive among 23 million people,” Aspegren says of Shanghai’s population. “Ninety percent of the drivers today are not able to feel the excitement. That’s unfortunate.”
Aspegren says the challenge of megacities likely requires a different model that includes multiple forms of transportation, including public transportation, while maintaining the pleasures that come with climbing behind the wheel of a well-executed automobile in China or anywhere else.
The desire for ever better fuel economy and lower environmental impact is driving innovation in the automotive glass market, a new report suggests.
In the past 10 years, the glazed area of cars has increased by 15% and now accounts for 30% of the vehicle’s structural integrity, while its thickness has decreased by 10%.
However, smart screen evolution will result in the introduction of even thinner, stronger glass that will make tomorrow’s cars more environmentally friendly.
Corning’s Gorilla Glass, the durable glass used on tablets and smartphones, has already been used in the BMW i8 hybrid sports car and the company is keen to bring the strong, lightweight and scratch-resistant material into more of the 4.5 billion-square-metre automotive flat glass market.
Meanwhile, scientists at McGill University in Canada have developed a new type of glass inspired by the interlocking structure of sea mollusc shells, which is 200 times tougher than ordinary glass.
Technology also has the potential for glass to be used to keep car interiors cool, cutting the need for energy-intensive air conditioning systems, while embedded photovoltaics could produce emissions-free energy.
Dr Chris Davies, head of technical research and innovation at Autoglass, said: “Vehicle manufacturers are likely to use more glass in the future – as it is lighter than metal – alongside more use of composite materials like carbon fibre.
“It allows designers more freedom with exterior and interior aesthetics and colours. And, because the surface area is getting bigger, glass is getting thinner to compensate in terms of weight.”
‘Window to the Future’ – a report commissioned by Autoglass – says environmental issues will add momentum to the development and implementation of these smart screen technologies, and fleets will be among the early adopters due to their shorter renewal cycle.
Research from Autoglass also suggests that driver behaviour and safety are typically one of the top concerns for fleet managers in the UK.
Windscreen features that in future lead to fewer accidents, lower repair bills, lower insurance premiums and less driver downtime, but are integrated with fleet and HR policies, are therefore likely to be the most popular with fleets.
Autoglass expert Dr Gwen Daniel sees the windscreen as a potential tool to providing connectivity between the vehicle and driver, and the fleet manager.
Fleets would be able to see both centrally and remotely “all the information on the car and if it’s been experiencing problems”, explained Daniel.
Dr Lisa Dorn, director of the driving research group at Cranfield University, agrees. She believes that smart windscreens could play a crucial role in improving driving, helping fleet managers increase efficiency and reduce crashes.
She said: “When you can actually know how a car or truck is being driven, you can feed back to a driver.
“This could take what the telematics systems do right now into the windscreen.”
The Window to the Future report suggests that augmented reality displays could also pay dividends. The first signs of the exciting future generation of heads-up displays could be seen at this year’s New York Motor Show.
Land Rover’s Discovery Vision concept incorporates a smart glass roof and windows capable of displaying images and deploying eye-tracking technology.
Eye-tracking sensors embedded within a smart windscreen can monitor drivers’ alertness levels, and nudge cars to react automatically to hazards the system knows they have failed to spot.
They can also enhance the effectiveness of heads-up display systems, ensuring that information projected on the windscreen is always in the driver’s line of sight.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “Eye tracking has huge potential to cut the number of ‘fail-to-look’ crashes, the most common car accident, especially among young drivers who research shows don’t look into the distance properly.”
With several manufacturers currently developing windscreen technology, the next-generation glass could come to market with the next model lifecycles – typically three to five years away – putting them well within the reach of fleets.
Since the end of the 19th century, when cars were first invented, automotive engineers have been pushing to take the risks out of driving. Inventions such as seat belts and airbags have helped. But one of the most revolutionary advances in crash-proofing might be to remove the driver altogether, with autonomous vehicles, such as the ones currently being developed by Google.
If the cars aren’t prone to human error, because they’ve been programmed to sense when they’re getting too close to one another or going too fast into a turn, road fatalities might be as bygone as the Ford Model T.
If that proves to be true, then the shape and look of a car can radically change – at least that’s the hope of British designer Dominic Wilcox. At the London Design Festival last month, he unveiled a prototype for an autonomous car that is so optimistic about its own potential for safety that its shell is made from delicate stained glass and its interior repurposed into a rest and relaxation zone – bed included.
“Extrapolating from where we are now, the cars should be super safe. There might even be roadways that only have driverless cars,” Wilcox says. That will allow the designs to securely accommodate us “when we are at our most vulnerable, when we are asleep.”
Wilcox, who is known for thought-provoking design ideas – including GPS-enabled brogues – doesn’t anticipate that the design will be implemented until 2059. “The technology is moving along rapidly,” he says. “But it has to prove itself to be safe and reliable first.” When it’s ready, the Royal College of Art graduate is also anticipating that our tech-laden lives will make us crave something, ironically, old-fashioned.
“Technology tends to be slick and polished,” he says. “In the future, I think things that are handmade will become more relevant. Specifically because handmade things aren’t perfect. They have a character that can’t be replicated by machines, which make everything too perfect.”
Hence his car design. It’s called the Mini Cathedral, in part because it was sponsored by Mini, and in part because the look takes after the windows of Durham Cathedral, in Northern England, where Wilcox was raised (he is now based in London).
The glass was all hand-cut and soldered onto a wooden frame. The panes were then attached to a metal Mini chassis that would hold the car’s engine and sensors. By blending the very old with the not-yet-realizable, it doesn’t feel like a confused throwback or some kind of strange pastiche – it all seems new and exciting.
Not that all the autonomous cars of the future will be sleepers. In addition to a future where people no longer drive themselves, Wilcox envisions a future where we no longer own cars at all. Instead, we’ll order up rides from elaborate, roving ride-share programs. Maybe we’ll need a single-person bed-car one day, then the next we might require a six-seater with a Jacuzzi or a kitchenette or a small boardroom. A visitor to the London Design Festival even suggested that Wilcox consider autonomous kennels to ferry around dogs. Of course, much can happen between now and 2059, and Wilcox acknowledges that his proposal is less about making something saleable and more about “demonstrating the potential of a system.”
That said, there’s something infectiously optimistic about it. Who wouldn’t want to rest up in a mobile, meditative, handmade jewel box that would feel as dreamlike inside as a Chagall painting?
Design themes in the automotive industry tend to ebb and flow in trends: jelly bean styling, retro design, flame surfacing… we could go on (and probably would if we were better schooled in the language of design), but you get the point. So what’s the next big thing in automotive design? Layers.
No, not the “levels” Kramer ranted about when remodeling his apartment on Seinfeld, but layers. It’s about adding a three-dimensionality to a vehicle’s surface, exposing some of the elements underneath and making room for active aerodynamic components. It’s something that BMW has championed with the i8 and which McLaren embodied as well with the P1. Its rival LaFerrari adopts the approach too, as have a handful of concepts like the Toyota FT-1, Aston Martin DP-100 and (maybe to a lesser extent) the Maserati Alfieri.
Considering the lust-worthy dream machines where the trend has kicked off, we should only expect layered design to further permeate the industry, trickling down to vehicles more people can actually afford… and not just six- and seven-figure hybrid hypercars.
The Mid-Michigan AIChE Section is sponsoring the Chem-E-Car seminar at Michigan State University by Jacob Anibal and Carl Herman, at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, 2600 North Saginaw Road, Midland, from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday.
Each year, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) sponsors the national Chem-E-Car competition between the collegiate AIChE chapters. Teams design and build small, chemical-powered cars to carry a water load over a given distance. The teams then compete against each other at the spring AIChE regional conferences, using a load and distance specified at the competition site. Accuracy in the distance traveled determines the winner, with the best cars stopping within a few centimeters.
This seminar covers the basics of the Chem-E-Car competition and design process, along with an opportunity to see a Chem-E-Car.
Jacob Anibal is a junior at Michigan State University. This year marks his second as the Chem-E-Car team captain. Anibal also works as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Scott Calabrese Barton’s electrochemical energy research group, researching oxygen reduction catalysts for fuel cell applications. Prior to this position, Anibal conducted thermodynamics research for four semesters as a professorial assistant under Dr. Carl Lira.
Carl Herman has been a part of the Chem-E-Car design team for two years. Last year, his focus was on calibrating a “clock reaction,” which served to stop the car. This summer he worked for Baker Hughes Inc. as a RD intern, working on the monitoring of sour corrosion using electrochemical techniques. He wants to use these insights to further refine battery designs used in Chem-E-Car. He is currently employed by The Dow Chemical Co. as a co-op.
This meeting is free and open to the public. Light snacks will be available while they last beginning at 6 p.m.
The lecture qualifies for one professional development hour. PDH certificates will be provided to interested attendees. For more information, contact Bruce Holden (989) 636-5225) or visit www.mmaiche.org/.
Riversimple, a Powys-based start-up developing a road-going hydrogen fuel cell powered car is carrying out some of its design in the cloud and has adopted Cadonix cloud-based automotive harness CAD tools.
“We’re designing a radically new car – which will be in market trials late next year. It emits nothing but a tiny amount of water and will do more than the equivalent of 200mpg,” said David Rothera, vehicle electronic engineer at Riversimple.
The firm is developing a two-seater local network electric car, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and with a body made from composite materials.
RD is led out of Wales by an engineering team drawn from top automotive, aerospace and motor racing; design is led by Chris Reitz, former design chief for the Fiat 500, with his team at their studio in Barcelona.
The team is aiming for fuel efficiency of more than 200mpg, a range of 300 miles, 0-30mph in 5.5 seconds, and a cruising speed of 55 mph.
The demanding electrical design parameters imposed by the use of the crucial lightweight composite body called for closer integration between the circuit design and the electrical harness tools.
“Cloud based design is new for us,” said Rothera, “but even at this early stage we’ve come to appreciate the flexibility of being able to access the design from anywhere. Arcadia is a flexible and intuitive tool, which will be fully able to address the need to include a return path, and other issues specific to the design of this unusual vehicle.”
The Arcadia CAD tool offering schematic design, animated circuit simulation and analysis, electrical networking, harness design and full design rule checking for wire harness layout and manufacture. It interfaces with 3D MCAD and enterprise wide PLM and ERP tools for project management.
While recently tuning up his Nissan Skyline GTR sports car, an auto enthusiast decided to forgo a traditional paint job. Instead, he asked his incredibly talented wife if she wouldn’t mind doodling on the vehicle with a sharpie.
The car enthusiast, a member of the U.S. Military, hated the car’s silver color, and wanted to do something unique. He started by allowing his wife to draw on a few scratches that were already on his car’s bumper.
When the man saw his wife’s work, he realized that her elegant drawings deserved a bigger platform, so he allowed her to color in the entire car, while he worked on revamping it from the inside.
His wife spent more than 100 hours sketching on the car, and then they added several layers of clear coat so the sharpie design would not rub off or wash away in the rain.
Here is the final product in all of its amazing glory.
And here is the Nissan Skyline GTR with its full sharpie design and clear coat:
A customized paint job like this would cost thousands upon thousands of dollars at a professional shop, and to be honest the results might not be this good. This artist really is crazy talented with a sharpie.
This article originally appeared on Give It Love and has been republished with permission.
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Imagine a future where driverless cars are not only the norm but could double up as a bedroom, a one-man office or even a mini cocktail bar.
Well, Sunderland-born Dominic Wilcox has not only came up with the vision but he’s created it – in the form of this strikingly colourful Mini-Cathedral car.
His tantalising vision of the future, taking the idea of driverless cars to the extreme, is inspired by the mighty Durham Cathedral and the Mini – the kind his auntie used to drive.
“My aunt Angela always drove an original classic mini around the streets of Sunderland,” says the 39-year-old, whose stained glass-topped vehicle opens up to reveal a full-size bed.
But it could just as easily house a work station, points out Dominic.
Driverless vehicles, currently being developed by the likes of Google, would see robotic cars which were able to guide and drive themselves – ‘talking’ electronically to other vehicles to avoid crashes.
And Dominic, who already has a whole host of quirky inventions to his name including GPS shoes to guide the wearer in the right direction, was one of six cutting-edge young designers commissioned by the Dezeen and Mini Frontiers exhibition – a collaboration between the design website and car manufacturer – to create their vision for the future of mobility.
The car’s unveiling at the exhibition as part of this year’s London Design Festival caused a huge stir.
“People don’t expect to see cars made of glass. At the exhibition people came over as it looked interesting then realised it had wheels and was some sort of vehicle. Then I lifted up the shell and showed them the bed – they probably weren’t expecting that!
“There’s been a lot of discussion on the subject which is one of the reasons for doing it, to spark people’s imaginations to go and think of ideas themselves.”
We could be soon seeing his futuristic car first-hand as Dominic, a former pupil of St Aidan’s in Sunderland now living in London, is in talks about exhibiting it in Newcastle next month.
Of its design, he says: “I’ve always liked the original Mini and the windows of my car are taken from it.
“Then when I visited family and we went to Durham Cathedral I looked at the windows there and thought they looked really wonderful and wouldn’t it be interesting to bring that stained glass into a more contemporary object.
“You don’t really see stained glass in modern designs and it was also the idea of turning it into a 3D object rather than flat.”
It took about nine weeks to build after just a five-day stained glass course.
Dominic says driverless cars would be ideal for elderly stuck at home or those with disabilities but his imagined future for 2059 – 100 years after the launch of the first Mini, – pushes the extremes of what is already possible.
“I know Google are taking employees around their facilities in a driverless car and they can be doing work while it takes them where they want to go, and they are already being tested in America on public roads.
“I’m proposing that in 2059 driverless cars will be commonplace.
“In the future there will be a motorway which only driverless cars will be allowed to use so there will be no collisions, no human drivers going crazy, and if the cars are super-safe then car designers don’t have to worry about all the safety equipment such as air bags and crumple zones.
“People don’t need own cars. Instead they can order a robot taxi and a size: a single, double or one for four or six people then they can choose the interior – a desk if they want to do work, a play room with games, a jacuzzi … anything is possible.”
Dominic, who did an art and design foundation course in Sunderland then went to Edinburgh College of Art followed by the Royal College of Art in London, has a book out, Variations on Normal, full of sketches of his often madcap inventions, guaranteed to make people both laugh and think.
“What I like about sketches is that it’s the shortest distance between my imagination and your imagination,” he added.
the exhibition ‘phantasm on wheels’ by nikola kolja božović presents the results of the serbian artist’s own research into various aspects of the car as both a physical vessel, and a carrier of cultural and social significance. on the occasion of belgrade design week 2014, božović has displayed a series of manipulated machinery sourced from automobile segments, acting as a metaphor for fetish, fantasy, obsession and status.
in addition to sculptural objects created through the transformation of disused vehicular parts, božović’s spatial installation for the gallery space of the BDW dizajnpark exhibitions within the old staklopan factory suspends the viewer in a fictional world of personal phantasm, seemingly with phallic undertones. designboom spoke with the artist about the metaphorical context latent within automobiles, in what ways he sources these unconventionally artistic, yet ubiquitous materials, and his own notions regarding the bridge between art and design.
designboom interviews serbian artist nikola kolja božov at belgrade design week 2014
for božović, a car is not just a machine — it represents capitalism, consumerism, creativity and cultural obsession. the gallery space becomes a field for reinterpreted shapes, reconstructed from the built creations that make up our environment. with these irregular-formed geometries and ‘exploded’ segments of cars, the artist consciously changes the established direction and connotations of the physical world around us.
the artist begins his work with the disassembly and reconstruction of distinguished vehicle parts from various manufacturers, which than are physically transformed by replacing their social role with an aesthetic one. božović’s intention is to personify the parts, giving them human features: headlights look like eyes, a cooler resembles a mouth, a carburetor could be internal organs, fuel is blood and the body is like a skeleton. the emerging transfiguration of objects symbolize the present situation and rituals derived from societal relationships; in turn, he implies that fetishes, fashion trends and collections of art — for example — can of often become a replacement for the physical and emotional relationships sustained between people.
božović’s distinct union of pop art and automotive fetish is reflected in the materials used: the surface of the sculptures is made of sheet metal, putty and plastics, is painted using colored car lacquer, and finally mirror-polished. after the physical transformation of structure and shape, each object becomes a composition in itself. the artist uses fiats and other various four-wheelers as the starting point for generating a surreal interpretation of an object used in everyday life.
2014 marks the ninth edition of belgrade design week, an annual, internationally-renowned festival for creative industries and modern business in serbia and throughout the south east european area. since 2005, founder jovan jelovac has successfully forged multicultural connections between artists, designers and entrepreneurs from the region with the greater global design scene. the initiative serves as a platform for creatives to engage in the exchange of ideas across a range of disciplines — advertising, architecture, arts management, communications, design, fashion, marketing, new media and publishing — delivering approximately 30 international speakers who share their perspectives and personal developments in their respective fields.
this year’s conference program ‘brand new world’ sets opens up discussion regarding the creation of new values in today’s fast changing world. on the occasion of this edition, president of the republic of serbia, tomislav nikolic opened the initiative, stressing the importance of the creative industries for the continued development of the country’s economy. local designers stand side by side with some the world’s greatest talents in a rare opportunity to bring the world to belgrade and to present belgrade to the world. find out more about the program, selection of keynote speakers and exhibition sites on designboom, here.
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