LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – The Los Angeles Auto Show (LA Auto Show®) has unveiled the 2014 Design Challenge entries submitted by world-renowned auto design studios for its 11th annual competition. This year’s entries explore the future of automobile connectivity by responding to the prompt: “Sensing the Future: How Will Cars Interact With Us In 2029?”
Each Design Challenge entry showcases how future technology will further transform human-to-machine interfaces that connect with senses, predict our next moves and create a more humanlike relationship with our vehicles. Specifically, entries are focused on automotive interiors that will comfortably and safely connect the driver and/or passengers to the car by 2029. With in-car connectivity and technology moving forward at a rapid pace, the Design Challenge pushes automotive designers to explore new instruments and knowledge like never before.
The design studios participating in this year’s Design Challenge represent the following global automakers: Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Peterbilt and Qoros. Several other studios will participate by showcasing their latest future-facing concepts in the Design Gallery, making for a total of 10 studios from around the world participating in the Show. Studios exhibiting in the gallery include: CALTY Design Research (USA), Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Center California (USA), Nissan Design America, Inc. (USA), Subaru Global Design Team (Japan) and Volkswagen Group of America Design Center California (USA). Additionally, leading design schools will display select student concepts in a special part of the gallery.
The 2014 LA Auto Show Design Challenge Entries:
Honda RD Americas, Inc. (USA) designed a human-to-machine interface concept for Acura that is comprised of an exterior and interior shell, connected through a modular adjustable mesh material that can flex to custom fit a passenger’s preferences. Able to accommodate one or two passengers, the interior is constructed out of a fabric-like material that can be altered simply by pushing or pulling on the surface. With the help of biometrics and repeated use, the vehicle will be able to learn the user’s preferences, anticipate their needs and have the ability to change its shape.
Honda Advanced Design Tokyo (Japan) presents the CARpet, a human-focused interior consisting of two elements, a carpet and a ball. The carpet is a highly flexible platform used to create a seamless and uninterrupted space with the freedom to change its shape to accommodate each user. Whether alone or traveling with friends, users can manipulate the car’s interior and make intuitive and natural forms for their ride. The second element, the Honda ball, allows drivers to interact during their autonomous journey. Within its closed shape, the Honda ball provides users a calm interface that responds to voice, touch and gesture commands for human-to-vehicle communication. In “active mode,” the driver can use the ball to control the car; the synergy between car and machine emulates that between a rider and their horse. Via the Honda ball, the car interprets driver commands to determine its optimum move.
Infiniti Design San Diego (USA) introduces a brand new universal fuselage pod that can transform into three vehicle types. This vehicle will be used for the brand’s unique triathlon competition, the A.R.C. race (Air, Rally, Circuit). The first stretch of the A.R.C. race is a Formula 1 grand prix course from LA to Las Vegas. The second portion is a desert race, which requires driving an off-road buggy to the Grand Canyon. The final leg of the race is a radical gymkhana-style jet race through virtual pylons back to Los Angeles. The A.R.C. triathlon race will also be the debut of Infiniti’s new futuristic HMI called SYNAPTIQ, a system that will make the driver and machine become one by connecting the SYNAPTIQ S.U.I.T. (Symbiotic User Interface Technology) through spinal lock attachment. It will enhance the driver’s passion and performance for racing as well as influence the design of a vehicle that will provoke imagination.
Peterbilt Motors (USA) created SymbiotUX, (pronounced “Symbiotics”), a concept based on the projection that the future of transportation will be dominated by a transformational shift toward vehicles operating together in truly symbiotic relationships that will, in turn, improve efficiency, safety, wellness and travel enjoyment. An important part of this transformation will be the role of “truck driver,” which will grow in stature and esteem (similar to that of an airplane pilot). SymbiotUX is a design concept that explores and illustrates how human-to-machine interfaces will be transformed by this future reality. The road pilot will have greater responsibility; therefore, the spaces and interfaces of a vehicle in “pilot mode” will be purpose-driven to enhance pilot capabilities leading to energy efficiency, reduced accidents, traffic and prevent overall wear and tear.
Qoros Design Shanghai (China) introduces a digital and physical concept, Q: Qoros Qloud Qubed, where the vehicle will become an intelligent, multi-dimensional personal management assistant. Q learns from the user over time through the five senses: sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. The dynamics of the relationship between Q and the user is modeled on how human relationships develop over time. Q learns the user’s tastes, favorite restaurants, places regularly frequented, music preferences, friends, family, etc. during the ownership period and is designed to maximize safety by identifying when the user is acting irresponsibly and quickly switching to automated driving mode.
“This year’s entries are particularly compelling because they offer insight into what our vehicles are capable of,” said Chuck Pelly, Chief Creative Officer of Intersection, Inc. “This year is a turning point for connected car technology and it’s fascinating to see how far we could get in the next 15 years.”
Design Challenge entries are judged on various factors including comfort, attention to human sense and emotional connection, ecological sensitivity, creativity of concept, control and function of concept and reflection of the brand. This year’s judges include: Tom Matano, Executive Director of the School of Industrial Design, Academy of Art University, Stewart Reed, Chair of Transportation Design, Art Center College of Design and Alexander Klatt, Chair of MFA Transportation Design Associate Professor, College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
In addition to the judges award, design aficionados from the public will also have the opportunity to vote for their favorite Design Challenge entry online starting Oct. 27; to vote, or for more information about the first annual “People’s Choice Award,” please visit LA Auto Show’s website here or the Show’s official Facebook page here. The winner(s) of both honors will be announced and presented with their award(s) before media and industry professionals during the annual Design LA Open House on Thursday, Nov. 20.
Following the Open House will be the Car Design Night LA party, taking place at Elevate Lounge in downtown Los Angeles from 7:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. In contrast to previous years, LA Auto Show credentials will not grant access to Car Design Night LA ’14. Design industry professionals interested in attending the offsite affair are invited to register directly with Car Design News here.
The final competition concepts will be prominently displayed in the Design Gallery of the LA Auto Show throughout Press Trade Days (Nov. 18-20, 2014), as well as through the run of the public show (Nov. 21-30, 2014).
LA Auto Show’s Design Challenge is sponsored by Faurecia, the world’s sixth-largest automotive supplier specializing in automotive seating, emissions control technologies, interior systems and auto exteriors. In addition to Faurecia, Design LA is made possible by the support of Lacks Enterprises, Inc., Autodesk, Bose, We-Inspire and Car Design News.
About the Los Angeles Auto Show and Connected Car Expo Founded in 1907, the Los Angeles Auto Show is the first major North American auto show of the season each year. Press Days for the 2014 LA Auto Show® will be held on Nov. 18 – 20. The show will be open to the public Nov. 21 – Nov. 30. The second annual Connected Car Expo (CCE) will unite automotive and technology professionals in an effort to increase development and foster relationship-building in the connected car industry, providing attendees with access to the key players and top media constructing the future of the connected car. CCE will start on Nov. 18, and continue in conjunction with the 2014 LA Auto Show Press Days. The LA Auto Show is endorsed by the Greater L.A. New Car Dealer Association and is operated by ANSA Productions. To receive the latest show news and information, follow LA Auto Show on Twitter at twitter.com/LAAutoShow or via Facebook at facebook.com/LosAngelesAutoShow and sign up for alerts at www.LAAutoShow.com. For more information on CCE please visit http://connectedcarexpo.com/
Media Contacts: Breanna Buhr/Sanaz Marbley JMPR Public Relations, Inc. (818) 992-4353 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Ford’s CEO, Mark Fields, told Wall Street financial analysts Friday that the company had the product development staff and engineering ability to build an electric car like a Tesla.
While he didn’t say the company would do so, he did say that such a car would be “very consistent with our product strategy”.
On top of that, behind-the-scenes efforts by Ford engineers to boost the power delivered by future generations of quick-charging stations may indicate that plans are more advanced than Ford is letting on.
Puzzling CCS power push
A long-range Ford electric vehicle–in perhaps three to five years–would require a robust network of DC quick-charging stations.
Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.
Those sites would perform the same function as the fast-expanding Tesla Supercharger network: recharge a large battery pack to 80 percent of its capacity in 20 to 30 minutes, making long-distance trips possible.
It appears that Ford, alone among the participants, is now pushing to expand the power-delivery capability of future Combined Charging System (CCS) DC quick chargers to as much as 150 kilowatts.
An engineer at another automaker who’s involved with the technical committee working on that standard told Green Car Reports that other participants didn’t understand why Ford insisted on such high power.
Today’s Tesla Supercharger fast-charging stations deliver a maximum of 120 to 135 kW, with plans rumored to boost that further to 150 kW.
Tesla Motors Supercharger station in Oxnard, California.
The CCS standard is supported by General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford in the U.S. and BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen Group in Germany.
Few CCS sites are open today, and the only cars on the market that can use them are the BMW i3 and Chevy Spark EV.
Minimal battery-electric effort
Ford’s efforts in electrified vehicles have so far focused almost entirely on its hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.
It current offers conventional hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid versions of its C-Max compact hatchback and Fusion mid-size sedan.
2014 Ford Fusion Energi
While the battery-electric version of the compact hatchback Ford Focus went on sale in December 2011, sales of the Focus Electric since then have been minimal: fewer than 4,000 units through September.
That compares to almost 64,000 Nissan Leafs. And it has led some analysts to deem the Focus Electric a compliance car sold only to meet Ford’s requirements under the California Air Resources Board’s zero-emission vehicle rules.
While the Focus Electric is at least nominally on sale in states outside those with California emission rules, buyers report that stock is low to nonexistent, dealers know little or nothing about the car, and in general there’s a lack of interest in battery-electric vehicles.
2015 Ford Focus Electric, 2014 New York Auto Show
The Focus Electric is built on the same assembly line as other Focus versions.
And in a clever bit of piggybacking, its LG Chem lithium-ion cells are essentially those that LG provides to General Motors for that company’s Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR range-extended electric cars.
Ford itself has downplayed and criticized its own product, several times underscoring its limitations and suggesting that many buyers will find it doesn’t fit their needs–unusual behavior by an automaker, to say the least.
Start-up electric vehicle maker Detroit Electric unveiled Monday the final exterior design of its battery-powered SP:01 sports car before the company’s promised production start early next year.
The design varies slightly from versions shown since the car’s prototype unveiling at the 2013 Shanghai Motor Show. It features a fastback configuration designed to enhance airflow and reduce turbulence, and includes changes to the front air intake and outlet ducts, which have been reshaped to optimize airflow to the heating and cooling system.
The electric car will be made at a facility in Leamington Spa in England, and will go on sale in Asia, Europe and North America in 2015.
“The final design of SP:01 incorporates signature Detroit Electric design DNA, carried over from the prototype model we revealed last year,” Jerry Chung, Detroit Electric’s head of design, said in a statement. “Coupled with many motorsport visual cues, the new fastback design, bold face and sharp contours evoke the company’s vision of pure electric performance.”
The car will reach 155 mph and can go 0-to-60 in 3.7 seconds, the company said. The vehicle’s battery packs have been placed in a protective composite casing which forms an integral part of the vehicle’s structure and protects the battery in a crash.
Detroit Electric said it plans to use the dealer franchise model and is seeking dealers in the U.S.
Earlier this year, Detroit Electric scrapped plans to build its car at an unidentified facility in Plymouth that would have employed more than 100 workers; it said then it would begin building the car overseas in late 2014.
The company said last year it hoped to sell 999 of its $135,000 SP:01 two-seat sports cars, built on the same platform as the Lotus Elise. The company said it would use revenue from that to build a second sports car, and later produce higher-volume, less-expensive electric cars.
Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker is planning a show concept for 2016 that he expects to be as influential on Renault’s future as the 2010 DeZir electric coupé.
The DeZir set the design direction of the company’s two best-sellers of recent years, the Clio and Captur.
Van den Acker said that the type of car can’t yet be revealed but that by the time the wraps come off it, a new Mégane – and, more important, a Mégane-based SUV – will be in the frame.
Meanwhile, he cited the ultra-low-carbon Eolab hybrid concept, shown at the recent Paris show under a French government-sponsored economy car scheme also embraced by PSA Peugeot-Citroën, as giving clues to a future Clio.
“You can drive this car,” he said. “It has been created with a large amount of input from engineers and it works already, despite being 100mm narrower in the rear track for aerodynamic reasons. This is a car we could produce for 2018,” he revealed.
“All of its innovations – the aero, the carbonfibre doors, the magnesium roof and a lot more – could be made now. But we need time to put them all into the industrial process,” he said.
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Auto show season heats up in November as Las Vegas and Los Angeles host two fall favorites: the custom-car heaven of the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association Nov. 4-7 and the design-rich Los Angeles auto show Nov. 21-30.
The Ford Mustang is an aftermarket tuner’s dream and Ford will start the stampede at SEMA with tuned models of the 2015 Mustang, which isn’t even on sale yet.
Legendary LA dealer Galpin Ford contributes a 725-hp model with gold-flecked black paint. NASCAR giant Richard Petty’s tuning shop offers a Mustang bearing the King’s signature, his blue paint scheme, number 43 and a V8 supercharged by fellow NASCAR giant Jack Roush.
Fiat Chrysler will have cars based on a range of models, including the Chrysler 200, Ram 2500 pickup, Dodge Dart and Challenger and — most intriguingly — the new Jeep Renegade subcompact SUV, which goes on sale early next year. The Renegade Riptide aims to appeal to beachcombers while the Renegade Frostbite has accessories tailored for winter sports.
Chevrolet will show tuned versions of its SS sport sedan, Impala, Cruze and Sonic. For 2015, all SS sedans get GM’s adaptive Magnetic Ride Control for better ride and handling. The Sonic Performance concept features engine and suspension changes for more power and better handling.
Hundreds of other tuned models from dozens of brands and customizers will fill the Las Vegas Convention Center for SEMA.
The Staples center in downtown LA will get its share of high-performance models, too, starting with the eagerly awaited Cadillac ATS-V sport sedan.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Fiat 500X will give U.S. customers their first look at the subcompact crossover expected to ignite the Italian brand’s sales. A restyled Chrysler 300 sedan will also debut.
Ford’s Lincoln brand is expected to reveal more about its Black Label line, which aims to take its dealer experience and interior materials to new levels.
Honda will jump into a hot new market segment with the HR-V subcompact crossover SUV. Smaller than the CR-V, the HR-V is likely to use the same 1.5L engine and continuously variable transmission as the Fit subcompact car.
The LA show has become a popular spot for automakers to test new design themes.
Audi promises a concept car that presages the styling of its upcoming production cars. Audi’s current design theme has been on the road for years, but it still looks beautiful and advanced. That makes this the perfect time for Audi, which considers itself a design leader, to move on. However, it also makes this the exact time many executives would be tempted to stand pat.
We’ll see how Audi lives up to its aspirations to leadership when we get a look at the concept, which is the first show car by the brand’s new design chief, Marc Lichte.
The LA show also includes the announcement of Green Car of the Year. The finalists are:
■ Audi A3 TDI diesel compact
■ BMW i3 electric car
■ Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, which runs on either gasoline or natural gas
■ Honda Fit gasoline-powered subcompact
■ Volkswagen Golf, which has gasoline, diesel and electric models.
Expect news about more debuts by Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and others between now and the LA show’s press days, Nov. 19-20.
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Carmakers in India would be forced to recalibrate their focus on safety, with the Vehicle Regulation and Road Safety Authority of India — an independent agency proposed in the draft Road Transport and Safety Bill — expected to wield the stick on issues such as standards for the design and construction of passenger cars.
Also, from next year, the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program is expected to be rolled out, under which the safety of passengers would be assessed by testing cars in front-on and side-on crashes.
India currently does not have a new car assessment programme to provide buyers with independent reports of vehicles’ crash safety and vehicle makers are not required to meet the United Nation’s basic crash-test standards, something that is mandatory in markets across the world.
The two measures assume significance in light of a random crash test conducted by an independent agency in January this year, where three cars out of the five cars failed the front impact crash tests on account of basic structural deficiencies in the body.This is even as a variant of one of these car models that is sold in the European market was found to be carrying the highest rating safety certification offered by the same agency in similar crash tests conducted on cars sold in the European Union.
This is even as a variant of one of these car models that is sold in the European market was found to be carrying the highest rating safety certification offered by the same agency in similar crash tests conducted on cars sold in the European Union.In January 2014, the UK-based Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) had tested five of India’s bestselling compact cars for their safety features.
In January 2014, the UK-based Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) had tested five of India’s bestselling compact cars for their safety features. The Hyundai i10, along with Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 and Tata Nano, were found to have “inadequate vehicle structures that collapsed to varying degrees”, resulting in high risks of life-threatening injuries to the occupants.
The Hyundai i10, along with Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 and Tata Nano, were found to have “inadequate vehicle structures that collapsed to varying degrees”, resulting in high risks of life-threatening injuries to the occupants. Hyundai’s i10 had a five-star NCAP certification in the UK (this car has now been replaced with the Grand i10 in Europe).
Hyundai’s i10 had a five-star NCAP certification in the UK (this car has now been replaced with the Grand i10 in Europe). The Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo also received zero points for adult protection ratings in a frontal impact at 64 km/hour.
The Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo also received zero points for adult protection ratings in a frontal impact at 64 km/hour. NCAP, however, noted continued…
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?
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