Car design needs to have a context. Whether that's market trends in the here-and-now, or projections and predictions as to how people are going to travel around in the future, designers cannot – and must not – work in a vacuum.
But we also realise there is so much information flying around it's difficult to keep track and pick out the relevant things from the noise. With this in mind, we've rounded up some thought-provoking, inspiring and otherwise interesting stories we've read this week...
This week’s provocative long read comes from The Verge: a piece claiming that a technology-enabled confluence of style “helps spread the same sterile aesthetic across the world”. Writer Kyle Chayka argues that a generic globalised design blandness is the result of tech platforms such as AirBnB, its users seeking the same reassuring features and signifiers of taste and class wherever they go. Eames chairs, midcentury design and industrial-look effects in general, raw wood, white or bright-accented paintwork, and “neutered Scandinanvianism” are common features of “AirSpace”, he says. Is this happening in automotive design? Discuss…
The what on earth… story of this week has to be the ‘straddling bus’, an immense, high-riding monster capsule claimed to glide astride lanes of traffic. The TEB-1 (Transit Elevated Bus) concept was first seen in 2010, but a prototype has now been constructed for test runs in Qinghuangdao, northern China, according to local reports. Yet while the concept itself is bizarre, design-wise it’s a bit of a disappointment: couldn’t it at least look a bit more sci-fi, especially within its passenger cabin?
Another transit concept on the cusp of realisation is the Olli autonomously-driven bus, a 3D-printed 12-seater shuttle built by Local Motors, featuring the IBM Watson IoT cloud-based cognitive computing/connectivity platform. It’s conceived as part of a networked transport ecosystem and is on trial in Washington DC, with further programmes following in Miami-Dade and Las Vegas. Olli showcases Local Motors’ crowd-sourced ‘co-creation’ design process and new business model: Edgar Sarmiento from Bogota, whose design was selected, is to receive royalties on the basis of Olli’s production numbers.
Car companies and city developers collaborate: the new-build suburb of YarraBend, Melbourne, is a ‘Tesla town’, developed in partnership with the Californian company. Buildings will incorporate solar electricity generation and Tesla Powerwall energy storage – ideal, of course, for electric car charging. We expect to see more such tie-ups in future, demanding specific context-based, integrated car and mobility system design.
Interior designers looking for a leather alternative could have a new natural solution: mycelium, or, basically, fungus. FastCoExist reports that San Francisco-based Mycoworks has developed organically-grown, custom-engineered and customisable materials and fibres which mimic the properties of leather, but are vegan-friendly, 100% biodegradable, quick, low-cost and energy-efficient to produce. Or how about Piñatex, a leather-look material from pineapple leaves?
And a research team from Loughborough Design School, UK, has made recommendations for HGV design to reduce risks to vulnerable road-users. In a study for Transport for London, CAD models of 19 popular heavy goods vehicles were created to analyse through vision for drivers. All the vehicles were found to have blind spots, and the key factor affecting driver vision was cab height. The team has called for a standard and regulation to define driver vision, in an attempt to tackle an issue which really must be addressed by vehicle designers.