Design Concept of the Day: zoox Boz

December 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

zooxbozNot so much a car as a new mobility paradigm, according to start-up zoox – a small company grounded in the design/animation/creative industries, so it’s come up with a nice-looking and well thought-out proposal for an autonomously-guided and platooned EV. Thinking with the proverbial clean-sheet approach, zoox’s Boz is bi-directional (works both ways, push-me-pull-you style), and in an autonomous set-up, doesn’t need headlights (direction is indicated to other road-users via external LEDs),windscreens, steering wheel, pedals or even a dashboard, enabling it to act solely as a cocooning pod for comfortable, fully-wired business transport.

It is remotely controlled from a central operating HQ (zoox draws the comparison with air traffic control and aeroplane autopilot systems), a hub to which vehicles will also return for cleaning, servicing and battery-swapping (appropriate in this context rather than recharging, as the vehicles are expected to be in service 24 hours a day). It’s conceived as an on-demand, pay-per-use vehicle for city use and ‘last mile’ transport, to be summoned taxi-style via a smartphone app, rather than a privately-owned product. Construction is from carbon composite components in easily-swapped or updated modules, manufactured using 3D printing tech; drive is electric/compressed-air hybrid.

Zoox has come under fire from some quarters for its lack of engineering background, and the fact that it’s looking for funding for ’boutique’ production, but whether or not this particular concept is only vapourware, it’s no big leap of the imagination to suggest that some of the most innovative, experimental and even influential proposals for new-system automobility could well be coming in future from outside the conventional, traditional automotive sector. Full lowdown (well, sort of: not that much on the concept itself beyond some pretty drawings and a bit of blurb) here at zoox’s pages.

  • Zoox refers to a useful study from Columbia University appraising the outlook for autonomous vehicles: Transforming Personal Mobility (2013). Download  it here.
  • In the here-and-now, Fiat’s aiming to undercut Daimler’s Car2Go in the car-sharing game (whilst offering two more seats than in the Smart Fortwo) and is launching its Enjoy fleet – of 500s – in Milan. No subscription fee, 25 euro cents a minute, free parking and free entry into the city centre (otherwise subject to a five-euro daily charge). It’s signed up Italian oil/gas firm Eni to take part, for starters, reports Automotive News Europe, which cites research from Frost & Sullivan suggesting that 26 million people will be car-sharing by 2020 (up from the current 2.3 million), 15 million of these in Europe (up from today’s 1 million). It’s not all about altruistic sharing, though – ANE quotes Fiat-Chrysler’s Europe chief Alfredo Altavilla as saying it’s “the quickest way to get customers into our cars”, and notes that Fiat will be offering Enjoy users discounts if they subsequently make a purchase.
  • Handy review from Embarq on the state-of-play in the car-sharing market here.
  • Haven’t spotted them yet myself, but there’s a pair of BYD electric buses now in action in London. These single-deckers have a 155-mile range, and will be trialled till August 2016. Six more will join them in service early next year. More here.
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