Automakers and design studios have spent much time exploring the new possibilities that semi- and fully autonomous technologies open up inside the car, but not as much time pondering the new exterior possibilities. With electric motors and autonomous tech running the show, future vehicles could take on very different shapes and forms than the ones we've become accustomed to. The CAMAL Viva concept shows plays with one such form, a pod-like, three-wheeled carriage drawn by technology (and actual horse power).
So far, automakers and design houses have seemed content to package autonomous design into either traditional car form or some version of a rolling bubble-pod. This seems a bit uncreative, given that autonomy and electric powertrains eliminate the need for a hood, clear, upright front and rear windshields, and traditional front-facing seats.
Sure, that freedom has given way to vis-à-vis seating and the aforementioned bubble-pods, but why aren't we seeing all kinds of different shapes and layouts? Why not go nuts with aerodynamics and efficiency and create a passenger car streamliner built to bullet ahead with as little wind resistance as possible? Maybe a rolling ground plane, like the Acabion Da Vinci or some of those space-age concepts from the 50s and 60s? We're just talking concept cars – they don't have to meet regulations or be practical or feasible for production, just flash a vision of what could be possible beyond eggs and semi-rounded cubes.
Be careful what you wish for.
With the Viva, Italian design studio CAMAL, whose previous work includes an 800-hp off-road supercar, lets its creative juices flow more freely than most ... so freely, the whole thing goes tumbling off a cliff. CAMAL plays liberally with forms and dimensions, creating a very different style of autonomous car it envisions as the future's own horse-driven carriage – quite literally.
The stretched 276-in (7m) long , 98-in (2.5m) wide three-wheeler has a smooth, pod-like body held up by an exposed chassis with thick side runners. To put that stretch into perspective, the Viva is about 10 in (254 mm) longer than a long-wheelbase Ford Super Duty with crew cab and 20 in (508 mm) longer than the Mercedes-Maybach Pullman – or it would be, if it existed off paper. With only four seats, it definitely won't feel cramped.
Where CAMAL really gets creative is in replacing the usual two rear wheels with a centrally mounted sphere. It refers to it only as a Goodyear sphere, so we'll assume it's one of the Eagle-360 spherical concept tires Goodyear showed at the 2016 and 2017 Geneva Motor Shows. The axle-less Eagle-360 tires rely on magnetic levitation, offering advanced maneuverability and integrated suspension. The Viva's rear sphere would help the mega-long car swing its tail around corners and tight spaces. Up front, the Viva has a more traditional dual-wheel set-up below its runners.
Where the Viva concept sort of runs off the rails is in CAMAL's addition of actual horses in a sort of 19th century-meets-21st century hybrid layout. Those two horses aren't just there to create an artistic picture; they actually pull the Viva during basic, everyday commuting. Should they start to tire or slow, the electric motors cut in to take over some of the workload. The horses can also be unhitched, allowing the Viva to maneuver autonomously under electric power alone. So add hitching posts and water troughs to the list of infrastructural upgrades this particular autonomous car will require to operate effectively.
CAMAL hasn't done much with the interior, showing only that it puts an asymmetrical spin on the concept of vis-à-vis benches.
We had to mention it, but if you go ahead and ignore the whole horse-and-buggy sideshow, and just think of the Viva as an electric car with autonomous capabilities, it's an interesting and very different autonomous concept.
Needless to say, the Viva won't be giving way to a production version – ever – but hopefully it will inspire more creative autonomous concept cars from other parties, pushing the limits of autonomous design.
The Viva isn't the first autonomous concept that CAMAL has revealed in recent months. The Edit concept, designed for OSVehicle, is a highly modular design with all levels of autonomy, 0 through 5, in mind. The concept combines OSVehicle's Tabby Evo electric vehicle architecture with four interchangeable body molds, providing many possibilities atop a single platform. You can learn more about it in the video below.