Building the (Fictional) Car of the Future

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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?

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September 15, 2011 - 5:06am
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