2007 L.A. Show Design Challenge

October 22, 2007

For the fourth year, the Los Angeles Auto Show is hosting Design Los Angeles, a world conference for designers, along with the Design Challenge, a design contest that garners entries from some of the brightest rising stars at top North American design studios. We’ve come to expect the Design Challenge to be an auto show of its own, with “theoretical” concepts, in the form of sketches and models. They aren’t quite the same as seeing rolling, life-size concept cars, but they sure are fodder to get us thinking about what we may be driving, or riding in, in the more distant future.


Last year’s theme was meeting the environmental changes of living in L.A. This year’s theme — “Robocar 2057” — looks particularly far into the future and has proven even more exciting (and open-ended).


Read on for a quick rundown of the eight entries for this year. The winner will be announced on November 15.


2007 Audi Auto Virtuea Quattro Concept

2007 Audi Auto Virtuea Quattro Concept

Auto Virtuea Quattro

Volkswagen/Audi Design Center California

Heather Shaw, Jae Min, Mattjis Van Tuijl, Karl Strahlendorf, Christian Schoen


A hydrogen-powered, single-seat vehicle combining artificial intelligence with “avenues of self expression,” the Virtuea Quattro is capable of projecting, as a holographic image, an array of possible exteriors, accessible through an onboard interface. And the exterior image can be “proudly displayed without environmental impact as no physical materials are needed regardless of size.”


Among other unique features are a built-in Respiration System, for that soot-ridden Blade Runner-esque future, and a Community Processing Unit at the helm that can bond with other vehicle CPUs and become exponentially smarter.


First thought: Will there a shuffle mode for the indecisive?



General Motors Advanced Design, California

Frank Saucedo, Steve Anderson, Jussi Timonen, Jose Paris, Lorne Kulesus, Tony Liu, Jay Bernard, Phil Tanioka


2007 GM-OnStar ANT

2007 GM-OnStar ANT

This entry models its communication and traffic abilities on “nature’s best computer, the ant,” using OnStar vehicle-to-vehicle communication along with embedded intelligence. An omni-directional propulsion system (with three podlike ‘Nanorb’ wheel systems) provides versatile mobility, while body panels have artificial muscles, in the form of electro-active polymer actuators, allowing them to be reconfigured depending on the use.


The panels also have a “street furniture mode,” where they “…act as open source communication portals adding culture and entertainment to the streets.”


First thought: Just what you need to be the best busker in your sector. As for the looks, are the designers Tripods fans?


Honda 124 – One to the Power of Four

Honda Research & Development

Ben Davidson, Khrystyne Zurian, Shae Shatz


2007 Honda 124 Concept

2007 Honda 124 Concept

Honda’s designers took a firm nod to an uncertain energy future with the 124, a flexible, fully robotic commuter vehicle especially designed for the “suburban community re-population movement of the 2050s.” Designed for carpoolers, the solar-hybrid-powered 124 allows one to four separate modules, fully functional with gyros, artificial intelligence, and ‘molecular engineering,’ to come together to share commuting costs.


The Honda also brings a unique vision of vehicle ownership in the future, borrowing aspects from condos and timeshares. Families will still own larger vehicles, but smaller second vehicles will be replaced with shares in a common vehicle; the shares in turn would be traded through a Honda database.


First thought: Hmm. Something happened to empty out the suburbs. Someone’s been reading The End of Oil and other books like it.


Mazda Motonari RX

Mazda R&D of North America

Matthew Cunningham


2007 Mazda Motonari RX Concept

2007 Mazda Motonari RX Concept

Named after Mori Motonari, a legendary Japanese warrior, the Motonari RX makes the driver and vehicle “indistinguishable from the other.” With a haptic-envelope driving suit serving as an interface between driver and vehicle, the road is experienced psycho-somatically, through electrical stimulation. The vehicle itself is made of a woven memory-alloy with photovoltaic coating, while four omni-wheels and electro-static nanomotors provide 360-degree movement.


Sheetmetal is dead, and traffic accidents are a thing of the past, predicts the year-2057 info sheet for the Mazda. Driving the Motonari RX would be a spectator sport in itself, as the effectiveness of cornering is controlled by occupant positioning, and in appearance it’s similar to street luge.


First thought: This is all fine and dandy, but what if you’re claustrophobic? And will having a battle-bot like this be the next measure of sex appeal?


Mercedes-Benz Silverflow

Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America

Gorden Wagener, John Gill, Kevin Kang


2007 Mercedes-Benz Silverflow Concept

2007 Mercedes-Benz Silverflow Concept

Like several of the other vehicle designs, the Silverflow can change its appearance depending on user needs. But here, all of its programmed modes are inspired by Mercedes-Benz’s open-wheel Grand Prix cars from the golden era of motorsports, with low profiles and tall, thin wheels.


The Silverflow is made entirely of micro-metallic particles that mold the car’s shape for the intended purpose; for instance, there’s a longer highway mode, a shortened city mode, and a side-by-side seating configuration. For storage, the car breaks itself down into a pool of material in a “semi-liquid state.”


First thought: A car of the future, and it looks like a car! No, wait, The Blob!

Nissan OneOne

Nissan Design America

Bruce Campbell, Doug Wilson, Robert Bauer, Bryan Thompson, Rie Arroba, Jeremy Malick, Laurie Tait, Matt Wilson, Soichi Maruyama


2007 Nissan OneOne Concept

2007 Nissan OneOne Concept

Pronounced “won won,” and named for the Japanese description of a dog’s bark, this Nissan functions as a family’s best friend, taking care of errands via an integrated live GPS system and even tending to children. It’s powered by multiple sources such as integral solar cells and tiny hairs on the surface that create bursts of energy, and it’s capable of lending or borrowing energy to others.


The OneOne propels itself in an especially memorable way: it skates along, in a similar way as with rollerblades, with synthetic muscles on its ‘legs,’ then either lies down or stands up to function as a performance car or city car, respectively.


First thought: Triple lutz? Pretty please?


Toyota Biomobile Mecha

Calty Design Research

Edward Lee, Erwin Lui, Yo Hiruta, Kevin Hunter


2007 Toyota Biomobile Mecha Concept

2007 Toyota Biomobile Mecha Concept

Imagine a future with limited ground space, pollution issues, depleted resources, and consumers no longer enthused about vehicles because of tedious travel. Enter the Biomobile Mecha.


The Mecha adapts to this grim future, doing triple duty both as a vehicle, temporary dwelling, and ‘environment cleanser.’ It does more than just remove pollution from the air; it extracts pollutants and harnesses them as energy for the vehicle’s driving force. It’s propelled with four nano-laser wheels, while it can adapt its structure horizontally and vertically depending on the purpose.


First thought: A MechWarrior to take refuge in.


Volkswagen Concept Slipstream

Volkswagen/Audi Design Center California

Ian Hilton, Derek Jenkins, Patrick Faulwetter


2007 Volkswagen Concept Slipstream

2007 Volkswagen Concept Slipstream

Over a backdrop of “unimaginably dense” population centers and saturated roadways, the podlike Concept Slipstream is introduced as an advanced autonomous vehicle that can dynamically adapt its footprint, and also travel as part of an advanced artificially intelligent transportation network.


The two-wheeled, teardrop-shaped Slipstream travels upright when in the city, taking up about one fifth the size of a typical vehicle, then in ‘slipstream’ freeway lanes, the vehicle goes horizontal and floats like the tail section of an airplane for speeds of up to 250 mph. Inside, the Slipstream has a motion-sensitive holographic web interface, while the outer skin is made of solar panels and any excess energy is fed back to the grid.


First thought: Gee…It kinda looks like a bowling pin when it’s upright.

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