CLOSE

Building the (Fictional) Car of the Future

Reading today about the Audi A2 concept car unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show provoked an invitingly distracting mid-day thought experiment about cars of the future. (At left, the Audio A2 Concept via Autoviva.com's Flickr)

The car comes equipped with a new feature called "Semi-Autonomous Drive," which assumes driving responsibilities when motorists find themselves caught in traffic. No doubt a practical solution designed to tackle an annoyingly commonplace problem—and, in places as calamitously congested as Los Angeles and New York City, a veritable Godsend.

Automotive design has been headed in this direction for some time. Google recently toyed with a driverless vehicle, to questionable critical success, and the Lexus LX 360 L boasts a strikingly efficient self-parking system that uses sonar sensors to squeeze itself into desired locations.

It appears that automotive engineers are programming the people right out of the cars—or, more accurately, attempting to program the potential for human error out of the car.

Driverless cars, of course, are nothing new in pop culture. KITT from Knight Rider possessed very impressive self-navigating abilities, not to mention the ability to talk, print money, engage various cruise modes (including, curiously, "pursuit" and "super pursuit"), and operate a state-of-the-art medical scanner. Why all GPS devices are not programmed with William Daniels' voice, by the way, is beyond me.
(Photo of KITT's instrumentation, at left, by WikiMedia uploader Amux)

So, here's the experiment: Help us design the perfect car of the future using creative features from pop culture. Do what Homer Simpson did for Powell Motors when he designed "The Homer" (at left). If you like the idea of your car having three horns because you can never find one when you're mad, like his did, go for it. If you like that the horns play "La Cucaracha," also like his did, even better.

Throw in some of the better fictional features—like the safety foam feature the police cars from Demolition Man offered—and toss out some of the less functional ones, like George Jetson's single joystick steering mechanism. How did he alter his altitude, anyway? Think KITT's turbo boost option was highly impractical? We're fine with that—on the cutting room floor it goes... You see where I'm going with this.

What automotive design innovations from movies, cartoons, and television would you select to build your perfect car?

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo
arrow
technology
Jeff Bezos Is Helping to Build a Clock Meant to Keep Time for 10,000 Years
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo

Few human inventions are meant to last hundreds of years, much less thousands. But the 10,000 Year Clock is designed to keep accurate time for millennia. First proposed in 1989, the long-lasting timepiece is finally being installed inside a mountain in western Texas, according to CNET.

The organization building the clock, the Long Now Foundation, wanted to create a tribute to thinking about the future. Founded by computer scientist Danny Hillis and Whole Earth Catalog publisher Stewart Brand, the group boasts famous members like musician Brian Eno and numerous Silicon Valley heavyweights. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is putting up the $42 million necessary to complete the project, writing that “it's a special Clock, designed to be a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking."

Measuring 500 feet tall when it's completed, the clock will run on thermal power and synchronize each day at solar noon. Every day, a “chime generator” will come up with a different sequence of rings, never repeating a sequence day to day. On specific anniversaries—one year, 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years—it will animate a mechanical system within one of five rooms carved into the mountain. On the first anniversary, for instance, the clock will animate an orrery, a model of the solar system. Since they don’t expect to be alive for many of the future anniversaries, the clock’s creators won't determine animations for 100, 1000, or 10,000 years—that'll be left up to future generations. (To give you an idea of just how far away 10,000 years is, in 8000 B.C.E., humans had just started to domesticate cows for the first time.)

Though you can sign up to be notified when the clock is finished, it won’t be easy to see it up close. The nearest airport is several hours’ drive away, and the mountain is 2000 feet above the valley floor. So you may have to be content with seeing it virtually in the video below.

Clock of the Long Now - Installation Begins from The Long Now Foundation on Vimeo.

[h/t CNET]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Tynker
arrow
technology
Barbie Is Now Giving Coding Lessons
Tynker
Tynker

Mattel wants to help 10 million kids learn to code by 2020, and the toy giant is enlisting one of its most career-focused assets: Barbie. According to Engadget, Mattel is working with the coding education company Tynker to make seven Barbie-themed computer programming lessons.

Barbie has been a pilot, an architect, the president, and a computer engineer, so there may be no better character to teach kids the joys of coding. The lessons, arriving in summer 2018, will be designed for youngsters in kindergarten and up, and will teach Barbie-lovers more than just how to make apps. They’ll use Barbie’s many careers—which also included veterinarian, robotics engineer, and astronaut—as a way to guide kids through programming concepts.

An illustration depicts Barbie and her friends surrounded by cats and dogs and reads 'Barbie: Pet Vet.'

A screenshot of a Barbie coding lesson features a vet's office full of pets.

There are plenty of new initiatives that aim to teach kids how to code, from a Fisher-Price caterpillar toy to online games featuring Rey from Star Wars. This is the third partnership between Mattel and Tynker, who have already produced programming lessons using Hot Wheels and Monster High.

Kindergarten may seem a little soon to set kids on a career path as a computer programmer, but coding has been called “the most important job skill of the future,” and you don’t need to work for Google or Facebook to make learning it worthwhile. Coding can give you a leg up in applying for jobs in healthcare, finance, and other careers outside of Silicon Valley. More importantly for kids, coding games are fun. Who wouldn’t want to play Robotics Engineer Barbie?

[h/t Engadget]

All images by Tynker

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios