October 12, 2007 As part of the LA Auto Show Design Challenge, several major manufacturers have submitted blue-sky design concepts showing where they feel automotive design will go in the next 50 years. From Nissan's friendly family assistant to Mercedes’ liquid-metal convertible and Toyota's pollution-chewing roller/strider, the submissions are an exciting and thought-provoking look at where the next half a century will take us in personal and family mobility.

Motoring has taken some incredible leaps forward in the last 50 years, with unforeseen new technologies making cars faster, safer, cleaner, more comfortable, more economical, more reliable, harder to steal, easier to navigate and easier to drive. Imagine what the next 50 years will hold! The LA Auto Show Design Challenge asked a number of major manufacturers to submit their biggest, best blue-sky concepts for the cars of the year 2057 – and the designers’ submissions are in.

Some key issues the designers foresaw in coming up with their submissions were the advancement of overpopulation, scarcity of fossil resources, extreme fragility of the environment and high levels of traffic congestion.

Common themes among the submitted designs include:

- Fluid designs and materials that can be reconfigured into different “modes” on the go to provide the optimum vehicle in a range of situations – achieving a compact, maneuverable footprint for commuting and a stretched, aerodynamic form for freeways and faster driving;

- Artificial Intelligence to allow vehicles to be operated with little or no input from the user;

- Advanced fuel systems using multiple energy sources to achieve excellent economy and power while minimizing or indeed reversing environmental damage;

- “Organic” design that mimics and responds to natural forms;

- Omni-directional drives instead of simple forward/reverse wheels.

Each of the entries is summarized below:

Audi Virtuea Quattro

It’s the year 2057 and Audi envisions a hydrogen-powered vehicle that combines artificial intelligence with avenues of self expression.

This single-seat, autonomous driving machine functions as a solid unit at its core, while providing a myriad of possible holographic exteriors stored in a library and accessible through the vehicle’s interactive holographic interface.

Virtuea’s holographic exterior provides a variety of possibilities, allowing the driver to select from the most innovative designs from one minute to the next. The vehicle’s image can now be proudly displayed without environmental impact as no extra physical materials are needed regardless of size.

GM-Onstar ANT

Much like the self-regulating traffic system found in nature’s best commuter, the ant, OnStar’s vehicle-to-vehicle communication and ubiquitously embedded intelligence allow GM’s ANT to act independently yet communicate with other vehicles to optimize traffic flow. Quantum computing power also allows each ANT to virtually recreate a highly personalized interior space for any occasion or personal need.

Omni-directional propulsion, provided by three independent Nanorb wheel systems, operate as independent robots and can arrange themselves in different configurations, turning virtually anything into a mobile device. Layered, environmentally friendly, single-walled, carbon-polymer nanocomposites form the flat surface panels, which incorporate the carbon nanotube battery.

All body panels are connected with electro-active polymer actuators (a.k.a. artificial muscles), allowing the easy and silent reconfiguration of body panels, depending on their optimal street use.

Honda - 14 - One to the Power of Four

Honda’s entry presents a future vision of car-pooling, where each occupant needs to reach a different destination, but all benefit from sharing the major commuting sections.

The solar-hybrid Honda 14 solves the carpooling dilemma because it allows carpoolers to take advantage of HOV lanes, share commuting costs and once near the passengers’ final destinations, robotically separates from one to four separate and unique modes of transportation.

Through a combination of gyros, artificial intelligence and molecular engineering, each individual vehicle instinctively reconfigures as a fully functional vehicle. When traveling as one, the division points are undetectable. The latest advancements in molecular engineering allow the body panels to divide and reshape to form each individual vehicle.

Mazda Motonari RX

The Motonari RX, named after legendary Japanese warrior Mori Motonari, non-invasively integrates the driver with the vehicle making each indistinguishable from the other. A driving suit serves as the primary interface between the occupant and the vehicle, which contains millions of microscopic actuators functioning as a haptic envelope. This allows the driver to experience the road psycho-somatically, receiving electrical stimulation to specific muscle groups.

The entire structure of the vehicle is comprised of a 100 percent re-prototypable, carbon nano-tube/shape memory alloy weave with a photovoltaic coating. This enables programmable tensiometry and fluid movement while insuring efficient energy transfer to the in-wheel electro-static nanomotors.

The four omni-wheels allow 360 degree movement. Acceleration and direction is determined by two armrest mounted control points. Occupant positioning controls the effectiveness of cornering and is comparable to street luge maneuvering in appearance.

Mercedes-Benz SilverFlow

The Mercedes-Benz SilverFlow utilizes micro-metallic particles that can be arranged via magnetic fields in many different forms based on pre-selected models. The vehicle, which can be completely dissembled into a pool of ferromagnetic material for easy storage, can adapt and transform its shape to best suit its required purpose.

The magnetic assembler, activated by a simple key fob, creates whatever vehicle its user needs. All of the programmed modes for the SilverFlow are inspired by the Mercedes Benz Grand Prix cars from the golden era of motorsports with distinct low slung shape, tall thin wheels and dramatic open-wheel design.

Any damage can be self repaired and any color/configuration/size is possible depending on the amount of source material available.

Nissan OneOne, a Friendly Pet

In the year 2057 robots have become an integral part of our lives blurring the line between humans and machines. The Nissan OneOne is the ultimate pet; a friendly, helpful member of the family of the future. OneOne (pronounced “won-won,” an endearing Japanese description of a barking dog) takes care of every aspect of the family’s busy lives from retrieving dry cleaning and groceries, to tending to the children. Guided by a real time GPS network, OneOne can take the children safely to school, soccer practice and back home in time for dinner.

OneOne takes mobility to a new level. Using synthetic muscles in its “legs,” it propels itself along by skating, much like you would on a pair of rollerblades. From performance car to city car, it lies down for speed or stands up for better visibility, allowing for more nimble navigation and easier parking. OneOne fulfills every need from dutiful pet to spirited sports car in a design that makes it a welcomed member of the family.

Toyota Biomobile Mecha

It is the year 2057 and due to limited ground space, vertical architectures have caused the transportation industry to create new pathways that also explore vertical space.

An innovative solution is discovered in bio-mimicry. Inspired by life found in nature, the vehicle is powered by pollution with dynamic driving instincts and structural adaptations to accommodate the user’s need for space.

This vehicle’s unique capability to extract pollutants in the air and utilize them as an energy source helps restore balance to our atmosphere. It is able to autonomously adapt to its driving environment by utilizing its four nano-laser wheels. Nanotechnology also enables the structure of the vehicle to expand and contract horizontally and vertically to serve as a compact commuter, an aerodynamic performance vehicle and temporary dwelling.

Volkswagen Concept Slipstream

In the year 2057, population centers have become unimaginably dense and the roadways have reached the point of total saturation. Volkswagen’s solution is an advanced autonomous vehicle that dynamically adapts to minimize its footprint in the city and its drag coefficient on the highways.

When in the city, these two-wheeled, teardrop shaped pods travel in an upright orientation that occupies one fifth the size of a traditional vehicle. When on a special freeway lane called the “Slipstream,” it tilts to a horizontal orientation optimizing its aerodynamic shape. Rear fins slide out to allow the rear of the vehicle to float like the tail section of an airplane to achieve speeds in excess of 250 mph.

The skin of the vehicle is made of hyper-efficient solar panels that power the vehicle.

The Design Challenge is part of the Design Los Angeles automobile designers’ conference that has evolved into an integral element of the Los Angeles Auto Show. See the image gallery or visit the Design Challenge website where more images of each design are available.

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