Renault challenged students on the MA Industrial Design course at Central St Martins, University of the Arts London, to come up with a shared, flexible and modular car of the future that could be used by a range of drivers.
The winning design, unveiled last night at the designjunction 2017 fair in Granary Square, London (where Central St Martins is based), is called The Float, as it uses magnetic levitating technology, and is based around concepts of tessellation.
“I want to make a new way of connecting: each vehicle is a unit and they can connect together, and each unit can transfer into different modes, to fit different scenarios in people’s different days,” says The Float’s creator Yuchen Cai (23), who graduated from Shanghai Jiao Tong University with a degree in Engineering in Industrial Design before coming to Central St Martins.
“There’s a lot of vehicles designed to connect to each other one by one, like a long line, but tessellation is about connecting vertically, or like a ‘T’, and in different configurations.” Each individual, autonomous on-demand pod can travel in any direction without turning itself or swivelling, and they connect to each other via an external magnetic belt. They feature sliding doors and swivelling bucket seats, for easy access and entry.
The Float further has a social element, enabled by an app which Cai designed in parallel to the pod-like vehicle itself. “When people have the same destination, they can go on the app and share the journey by tessellating together – it saves a lot of space on the road, they can share the same journey,” she explains.
Though each vehicle is self-contained, people can see each other through the glass, and talk via speakers; the glass’s transparency or opacity can be changed depending on desires for privacy or inclusivity. “I think the project is not just about automobile design, I think it’s a new way of mobility. Not just about cars!” she stresses.
As winner of the competition - whose judges included Renault’s vice-president of exterior design Anthony Lo and chief exterior designed Francois Leboine - Cai spent a two-week internship at Renault’s Technocentre, where she worked with the designers to develop her project and build the model displayed in London.
Her model is on show at designjunction 2017 from 21st-24th September – where visitors to the show can also see Renault’s Trezor concept car, one of last year’s motor show stars (and winner of our own Concept Car of the Year award).
The semi-finalists in the competition were Stephanie Chang Liu and Tuna Yenici. Chang Liu’s ‘Flo’ incorporates three vehicles, one for freight, one for personal transport and a third for shared transport to give a seamless journey and a constant flow of goods and people across a city, indicating a bus or taxi of the future. Yenici’s ‘Vue’, meanwhile, is intended to create an emotional bond between vehicle and user, much like a person with their pet: Vue greets the owner and is sad to see them go at the end of the day, he says.