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Shapeshifting, Solar-Powered, Robot Cars

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2nd Oct 2008

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Toyota bio MECHA
If the worlds leading automotive designers have anything to say about it, the definition of the automobile is about to undergo a radical transformation. This year's fourth annual Design Los Angeles showcases visionary designs from competition entries that explore what the car could look like in 50 years, and was hosted within the confines of the Los Angeles Auto Show, the first to preview the new designs of the next season.

Fifty years is a long horizon, and several themes emerged from the competition, settling on alternate power, robotics and nanotechnology. The advent of nanomaterials will allow items to shapeshift, creating a car that you could drive, then push a button and watch as it transformed into a box of nano-particles that fits in your pocket.

Matthew Cunningham's Mazda Motonari RX is a form of car that you would wear, which contains a photovoltaic charge that allows the physical arrangement of molecules of carbon nanotubes to change according to programmed sequences.

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Mercedes-Benz SilverFlow
Derek Jenkins, Ian Hilton, and Patrick Faulwetter's Volkswagen Slipstream won the 2007 Design competition. The Slipstream examines the idea of urban commuting and artificial intelligence in uber-compact areas, creating a form of commuting pod that would stand upright in traffic, then flatten down for greater speeds when on the highway. The Segway-like vehicle would be solar-powered, using thin-screen photovoltaics on the surface of the vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz explored the idea of holographic presentation with the Silverflow, a vehicle that employs holograms to project images of the automobile which can change instantly. This allows the shape, size, color and style of a vehicle to morph according to pre-loaded holographic sequences. The holograms would wrap around a compact capsule that encases the driver.

As far as unusual power sources go, the Toyota Biomobile MECHA wins for its pollution-as-a-power-source concept, and gets a nod for floating nano-lasers that replace tires.

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Volkwagen Slipstream
Again, nanotechnology is the primary structural component, which allows the car to shapeshift to become more vertical for city driving, flatter for faster speeds, and to expand as a form of mobile space when needed. It was created by Yo Hiruta, Kevin Hunter, Edward Lee and Erwin Lui at CALTY Design Research.

Toyota bio MECHA These and other designs are a showcase of the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show, but they are all even more conceptual than a concept car - simply ideas for how the automotive world could look in 2057. But the thinking behind them is quite insightful - all imagine a densely packed future, zero carbon emission power sources, and novel ways of linking and de-linking materials through the use of that elusive future world-changer: nanotechnology.

Imagine a car you can live in, which self constructs and de-constructs on command, and is so fully robotic it can run errands for you... this is the future these designers imagine.