Is there an Apple Car? No one knows. Apple itself refuses to comment. No leaks have occurred that could help us imagine what such a vehicle might look like. But that didn’t stop the people at Motor Trend from assembling a team of noted designers at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California.
The team included Stewart Reed, ArtCenter’s chair of transportation design, Garrett DeBry, ArtCenter graduate and current industrial designer at Radio Flyer, Tim Huntzinger, professor of graduate transportation systems, ArtCenter faculty member Tim Brewer, automotive interior specialist Di Bao, and Akash Chudasama, a recent grad student with an aerospace engineering degree.
Their mission was simple. Motor Trend told them, “Imagine you are designing a car for Apple. What would it look like?” Unlike a typical design team, which often spends years creating and honing a design, the Motor Trend team of experts had only a few weeks to complete their task.
Reed began the discussion this way. “I just got out of a meeting with a manufacturer who is now calling their designers ‘experience designers,’ ” he says. “Their team sounds like a movie crew: acoustics, haptics, interpreters. To me, that would be an Apple approach.” DeBry adds, ” The core experience of an Apple vehicle is that it’s as easy to use as possible.”
Again the question is asked, “What would an Apple Car look like?” The discussion begins. “I would start from the inside out,” Bao says, “with usability coming first.” Brewer is next. “What’ll be most striking will be the quality of its parting lines, how materials come together. The big gaps on current cars make them seem dated.”
Chudasama chimes in. “It’ll be a mobility device. A way of life. It won’t be taking cues from an animal or something. Rather, it would be honest to what it really is. It’s not faking its meaning.” Huntzinger picks up on that. “Those haunches and big wheels are old memes we use just because people think they’re valuable,” he says. Chudasama again, “The new premium is ‘convenience’. We want our time back. That’s the most valuable thing we have.”
Slowly, the group’s thinking coalesces around the windshield of the car. If Apple is building a car, that’s where the action will be. “If the iPhone 6 screen is the Mona Lisa of multitouch, an automobile’s windshield and dash would be a blank Sistine ceiling,” says Motor Trend editor Kim Reynolds. “The vehicle will become an extension of your Apple device,” adds DeBry.
The Apple Car, then, will begin with an interactive, alternate reality windshield that displays all the information a driver and passenger need. In addition to a view of the outside environment, it will display all necessary information about the operation of the car itself.
The dashboard will be devoid of gauges, switches, meters, dials, and other mechanical devices. Carefull readers will have an Ah hah! moment at this point. Isn’t that exactly what Tesla tells us the dashboard of the Model 3 will be like?
“[T]he future of automotive glass isn’t laminated safety glass. It’ll be in the realm of hard-coated polycarbonates that allow expansive glass surfaces for augmented or, as I prefer to call them, ‘merged-reality’ projections,” says Stewart Reed. Elon Musk would probably agree.
As a person who has had a long and passionate involvement with the automobile, I had an epiphany while looking at the design sketches the team came up with. One of them reminded me of a car I had seen a long, long time ago, the Dymaxion penned by Buckminster Fuller in 1933. Just goes to show that good design is indeed timeless.
Source: Motor Trend. Photo credit: Motor Trend/Wikipedia