Concept of the Day: Digicars at the Design Museum

May 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

digicarsOne of four future ‘United Micro Kingdoms‘ on display at the Design Museum, London, the Digiland UmK features a series of remote-controlled microcars in which riders can buy a series of services as well as differing levels of privacy and performance. Citizens of this county – Digitarians – are dependent on digital tech and market forces, subject to total surveillance, data logging and tracking, and the electric Digicars are standing room-only, basically-equipped transportation appliances which constantly calculate the most economical route, over which “every square metre of road surface and every millisecond of access, at any moment, is monetized and optimised”. Mind you, this still sounds more attractive than the Bioliberals‘ Biocar, and I’m not sure about the Very Large Bike of the Anarcho-Evolutionists, either (no story-telling, please, and I do hope bloody hippy drumming isn’t involved)… Great fun and thought-provoking stuff from Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, tutors/professors at the Royal College of Art and University of Applied Arts, Vienna, respectively,  who “interrogate the cultural and ethical impact of existing and new technologies and how they alter the way we live”, according to the Design Museum website, and “use elements of industrial design, architecture, politics, science and sociology to provoke debate around the power and potential of design. UmK challenges assumptions about how products and services are made and used, through reinterpretations of the car and other transport systems”. Review at the Observer. Oh, and by the way, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has been talking with Google about autonomous-driving (“autopilot”, he likes to call it) tech, reports Automotive News.

  • More on the kids-losing-interest-in-cars meme at just-auto: Professor Dale Harrow of the Royal College of Art agrees with Prof. Juliet Schor (research interests: sustainable consumerism) that in the short to medium term, there is evidence to suggest that Gen Y’s not so keen. However, this isn’t holding true in developing markets, and once young Westerners grow up and have families having their own car may become a priority anyway. Harrow mentions increased customisation and the product-to-services shift as future auto industry preoccupations.
  • Story on BMW’s Connected Foresight project at Autoblog Green; basically, developing a suite of driverless/driver-assist technologies (do we see a theme emerging this evening?) which will enable travellers to safely stay in social media contact whilst crawling in the stop-start traffic of the congested mega-cities of the future. BMW’s new DesignWorks Shanghai think-tank has a dedicated Apps Lab, too.
  • No surprise here, but Californian EV start-up Coda Automotive (assembling nondescript-looking Chinese-developed budget saloons) has filed for bankruptcy. Company’s hoping to go into energy storage instead now, apparently; more here.
  • Sounds as if Better Place is on its way to a worse one; Renault-Nissan appears to be bailing on the battery-swap idea, with only the Fluence EV featuring the tech in selected markets (Israel, Denmark), and the Zoe, Kangoo and other ZE models to have their own staying-in-to-charge batteries.  CEO Carlos Ghosn told  Energiwatch that “when you look at the overall trend, we must conclude that replaceable batteries are no longer the main path for electric vehicles… We believe that people want flexibility in the technology, and we can see that the demand is for rechargeable standard batteries… there may also be large companies, where they have a huge fleet of cars, and do not want to wait for charging. But it will not be the majority of the market, and going forward, our focus is on the charging technology.” Battery-swapping may still have relevance in the fleet/van sector, however; Green Car Reports has the lowdown and video on the GreenWay project in Slovakia, for example.
  • Car-sharing in Toyota City: the Ha:Mo (‘harmonious mobility’) trial is up and running with three COMs micro-EVs and a fleet of e-bikes now available to commuters linking-up with a nearby train station for  ‘last mile’ purposes. Nice pic at Green Car Congress.
  • Another intriguing report from Green Car Congress about work at MIT to extend an algorithm for car-sharing (ie reserving a Zipcar vehicle) for detailed multi-modal journey planning, calculating the most time- and energy-efficient routes. Prof Brian Williams and research student Peng Yu say that the algorithm could also be used for range optimisation in plug-in hybrids and EVs, and see it as a human-machine collaboration which could also work with robots (they’re in talks with Boeing).
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