For the past six years, the Los Angeles Auto Show has invited automobile designers to participate in its Design Challenges. The challenge for this year’s show was to come up with a design for “a 1,000lb [453.6kg], four-passenger vehicle that is both comfortable and safe, while delivering satisfactory driving performance without sacrificing the styling consumers’ demand.” Entries are being judged not only for meeting the weight constraint (no more than 1,500 pounds/680 kg with passengers), but also for artistic beauty, comfort, uniqueness of design, roadworthiness, sustainability, performance and user-friendliness. The winner will be announced at the show, on Nov. 18. Here’s a look at some of the higher-profile entries...

General Motors Advanced Design California – Cadillac Aera

This 2+2 coupe features a polyhedral, 3D lattice, mono-formed frame with a flexible pressurized polymer skin, which optimizes light weight, aerodynamics and safety. It would have a range of 1,000 miles (1,609 km), running on alternative fuel.

Honda Advanced Design Studio, Pasadena, CA – Honda Air

Inspired by roller coasters and skydiving wing suits, this sub-800lb (363kg) vehicle would be powered by a compressed air and pneumatic regulator system.

Mercedes-Benz Research and Development Japan: Advanced Design Center Japan –MAYBACH DRS

DRS stands for “Den-Riki-Sha”, which is Japanese for “electric powered rickshaw.” This car(?) would be powered by a self balancing electric drive unit and controlled by an onboard computer plugged into a city’s transport infrastructure.

MAZDA Design Americas – MX-0

Each component of this automobile has been designed to carry out the functions of several components on the existing Mazda MX-5, resulting in fewer total parts and thus lower weight. It would be powered by high-torque electric motors, delivering “impossible acceleration and instant cornering.”

Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc.: Advanced Design Center California – Mercedes-Benz Biome

The Biome would be grown in an ecologically sustainable nursery from two seeds (no we are not making this up). One would create the interior of the car from Mercedes-Benz DNA, while the other would create the exterior. Both seeds would be genetically engineered, as per the customer’s specifications. Don’t expect to see this one on the roads any time soon!

Nissan Design America – Nissan iV

Not unlike the Biome, parts of the iV would be produced through “organic synthetics,” in which “automotive parts are cultivated like agriculture.” Its ultra-light yet robust frame would be made from an ivy/spider silk biopolymer.

Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Germany – Smart 454

The Tridion-frame chassis of this vehicle would be knit by “Smart Granny Robots” (known as SGRs, naturally). They would weave carbon fiber into complex shapes, optimized for strength and low weight.

Volvo Car Corporation: Monitoring and Concept Center VMCC – Volvo Air Motion Concept

The Air Motion would require thousands fewer components than traditional cars, due to its use of powerful yet simple compressed air motors.

Calty Design Research, Inc. – NORI

Sushi eaters will know that nori is seaweed, and that’s just what would be combined with carbon fiber in the creation of this car. Its body and frame would be combined in one homogeneous pod, which would reduce weight and parts, while capturing and generating energy.

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