Concept vehicle review
Concept cars are typically created and launched with design primarily in mind since the main goal is to gauge interest in aesthetic concepts. This group of concepts has a greater focus on technology, helping to frame vehicle manufacturer and supplier ideas of future new mobility concepts, with a focus on autonomous, connected, and electrified ideas for the future.
- Trezor Electric GT showcases Renault’s future
- Chrysler Portal Concept at CES 2017 designed for Millennials
- Chevrolet FNR-X concept finds new (off)roads
- Honda concept part of Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem
- Toyota concept designed for future of human mobility
- Rinspeed designs Oasis as autonomous ‘garden plot on wheels’
- Sedric previews VW Group automated vehicle focus
- Italdesign and Airbus design multimodal Pop.Up
- Renault vision of Formula 1 includes autonomy
The Trezor two-seater electric coupe introduced at the 2016 Paris Motor Show is said to embody the new design philosophy Renault introduced on its DeZir concept in 2010. Its designer, Laurens van den Acker - SVP Corporate Design, gave the concept car striking features like red glazing, innovative carbon bodywork with contrasting surface finishes, a one-piece canopy for passenger entry and exit, all in a silhouette of a classic GT. The car’s ultra-low bodywork optimizes aerodynamics to achieve a drag co-efficient (Cd) of just 0.22. Its center of gravity is also particularly low (ground clearance: 25 cm) for greater stability and less body roll.
The TREZOR’s electric traction motor derives from the Renault e.dams, two-time winner of the Formula E Teams’ world title. With maximum power of 260 kW and peak torque of 380 Nm, it provides acceleration from standstill to 100 kmh (60 mph) in less than 4 s. The TREZOR features two batteries, each of which has its own cooling system optimized by the variable-geometry air intake incorporated in the bonnet. The TREZOR also incorporates a brake-operated energy recovery system, courtesy of the Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS) technology developed for Formula E racing.
What was lost in all the talk of its beauty and drivetrain were its future technologies conceived to make life easier, like its customizable, touch-operated dash with advanced connectivity. The dash combines OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology and Corning Gorilla Glass for contrast and color reproduction. The touchscreen’s interface can be personalized with smartphone’s apps.
Autonomous driving modes continue this personalization theme while on the move. A vaguely named MULTI-SENSE system offers a choice of three driving modes: neutral, sport, and autonomous. When in autonomous mode, the car’s exterior lighting signature changes and extends to the lateral and rear logos, indicating to other road users that driving has been delegated. Formed by two leather-sheathed aluminum shafts, the steering wheel extends in width in autonomous mode. With the wheel in this configuration, the driver also has a panoramic view of the dashboard. In this mode, the TREZOR allows occupants to use their time on a journey to stay connected. The driver and passenger are able to immerse themselves in a shared universe, perhaps by watching a film, playing a game, or flicking through photographs.
Beyond 2020, Renault’s target is to make completely safe ‘hands-off / eyes-off’ technology available for its mainstream vehicles at an affordable price.
The Portal is Chrysler’s forward-thinking interpretation of the “fifth generation” of family transportation focused toward the millennial generation. Designed from the inside out, the interior offers the driver and passengers a “third space”—an open and serene atmosphere that bridges work and home. The mono-volume exterior centers around an illuminated, portal-shaped articulating front, and rear doors that allow for easy ingress and egress.
On the tractive power side, the electric-powered concept is estimated to have more than 250 mi (400 km) of range on a full charge. It uses DC fast charging (350 kW) to recharge the battery pack with 150 mi (240 km) of range in less than 20 min. Battery-electric vehicle technology contributes to cabin spaciousness with a minimized engine compartment and a low, flat-load floor atop the battery pack that is ideal for transporting people and equipment for an active lifestyle.
What is most significant about the car is that it lifts the veil on Chrysler’s most advanced connectivity and autonomous thinking. Specifically, the Portal’s in-vehicle wireless network seamlessly integrates with mobile devices to enable community social sharing among passengers and internet cloud-based applications.
The concept has more than 20 available technologies designed to engage, inform, and connect the driver and passengers. It is designed to provide an adaptable and upgradeable user experience that can evolve with lifestyle changes and technology advancements. Infotainment, sensor, and software systems are designed to provide a seamless user experience. Key features include facial recognition and voice biometrics to customize settings for exterior and interior lighting, favorite music and audio settings, and favored destinations. Vehicle-to-X communication enables the vehicle and infrastructure to “talk” to each other for intersection crash warnings, traffic sign recognition, and emergency vehicle approach.
A suite of sensing technologies enables SAE Level 3 semi-autonomous driving mode, but the Portal is designed to be upgraded to Level 4 autonomous driving if desired when the technology is further developed. SAE Level 3 semi-autonomous operation can be enabled by the driver under certain highway driving situations. The vehicle is equipped with an array of LiDAR, radar, sonar, and vision sensor technologies that constantly monitor conditions outside and inside the vehicle.
Contributions from supplier partners include Magneti Marelli (forward lighting and LED surround lighting systems), Panasonic Automotive (Cognitive Infotainment Platform, wireless connectivity, and audio systems), and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Gear 360 cameras and Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode screens).
The Chevrolet FNR-X all-purpose sports concept vehicle that debuted at Auto Shanghai 2017 is a follow up to the Chevrolet-FNR (Find New Roads) concept vehicle developed by General Motors’ Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center joint venture for Auto Shanghai 2015.
The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle can switch between its engine and electric motor, while offering two driving modes: V (Versatility) and S (Sport). The FNR-X can modify its suspension and handling profile thanks to an adaptive suspension that adjusts ground clearance on demand. The model’s intelligent adaptive control systems, active grille shutters, and switchable wheel blades adjust automatically during high-speed driving, reducing wind drag.
The FNR-X supports intelligent connected mobility for individual users, incorporating an OLED dynamic display system, a unique intelligent speech interaction system, and an ID-customizable information system. With the all-terrain Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS), in addition to optical and acoustic recognition sensors all over its body, the FNR-X is designed to provide highly autonomous driver assistance by choosing the best route based on its predictions for complex road conditions. Its panoramic intelligent augmented reality head-up display offers a clear 270-degree posterior-lateral view to maximize safety and driving pleasure.
Honda unveiled its Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem concept at CES 2017, connecting the power of artificial intelligence, robotics, and Big Data to transform the mobility experience of the future. Featuring a number of prototype and concept technology demonstrations, the concept envisions a future where vehicles will communicate with each other and the infrastructure to mitigate traffic congestion and eliminate traffic fatalities, while increasing the productivity of road users and delivering new types of in-vehicle entertainment experiences.
Supporting its Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem theme were a number of concepts, with the most interesting being the NeuV (New Electric Urban Vehicle) electric automated mini-vehicle concept equipped with an artificial intelligence (AI) “emotion engine” and automated personal assistant.
The concept—whose genesis sprung from the fact that privately owned vehicles sit idle 96% of the time—explores the idea of creating new value for its owner by functioning as an automated ride-sharing vehicle, picking up and dropping off customers at local destinations when the owner is not using the car. It also can sell energy back to the electric grid during times of high demand when it’s not in use. “We designed NeuV to become more valuable to the owner by optimizing and monetizing the vehicle’s down time,” said Mike Tsay, Principal Designer, Honda R&D Americas.
The car’s AI assistant’s emotion engine is an emerging technology, developed by Honda and SoftBank with help from Cocoro SB Corp., which enables machines to artificially generate their own emotions. Called HANA (Honda Automated Network Assistant), the NeuV emotion engine learns from the driver by detecting the emotions behind the driver’s judgments and then, based on the driver’s past decisions, makes new choices and recommendations. HANA can check on the driver’s emotional well-being, make music recommendations based on mood, and support the owner’s daily driving routine.
The NeuV features a full touch panel interface enabling both the driver and passenger to access a simple and convenient user experience. The vehicle has two seats, a storage area in back, outstanding outward visibility thanks to a headerless windshield and a dramatically sloping belt line, and an electric skateboard for “last mile” transit.
Toyota says its Concept-i, unveiled at the 2017 CES, demonstrates the company’s view that vehicles of the future should better consider the needs of the people who use them. The concept vehicle was designed by Toyota’s CALTY Design Research in Newport Beach, CA, and with user experience technology development from the Toyota Innovation Hub in San Francisco.
The philosophy employed was one of “kinetic warmth,” a belief that mobility technology should be warm, welcoming, and above all, fun. As a result, the concept was developed with a focus on building an immersive and energetic user experience. It leverages the power of an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system to anticipate people’s needs and improve their lives. The AI technology is said to learn more than just driving patterns and schedules; It is designed to leverage multiple technologies to measure emotion, mapped against where and when the driver travels around the world.
The AI system leverages advanced automated vehicle technologies to help enhance driving safety, combined with visual and haptic stimuli to augment communication based on driver responsiveness. When under certain conditions, users will have the choice of automated or manual driving based on their personal preference. The vehicle monitors driver attention and road conditions with the goal of increasing automated driving support as necessary to improve driver engagement or to help navigate dangerous driving conditions.
To help make the cutting-edge vehicle technology welcoming, CALTY designers started with a next-generation user interface that serves as a platform for the vehicle’s AI Agent nicknamed Yui. The Concept-i interior incorporates sweeping lines around the driver and passenger side, and uses interior shapes designed to enhance Yui’s ability to use light, sound, and even touch to communicate critical information.
The concept avoids screens on the central console to reveal information, instead using colored lights in the foot wells to indicate whether the vehicle is in automated or manual drive. In addition, rear deck projectors overlay views onto the seat pillar to warn about blind spots, and a next-generation headup display helps keep the driver’s eyes on the road.
Even the exterior of the vehicle is designed to engage with the world around it. Yui appears on exterior door panels to greet driver and passengers as they approach the vehicle. The rear of the vehicle shows messages to communicate about upcoming turns or warn about a potential hazard. The front of the vehicle communicates whether the Concept-i is in automated or manual drive.
Swiss automotive visionary Frank M. Rinderknecht was looking to reimagine mobility with the Rinspeed Oasis concept vehicle, a self-driving electric vehicle for the city and surrounding areas. His alternative concept is a maneuverable speedster with an integrated small garden plot behind the windshield. In keeping with tradition, the twenty-third Rinspeed concept car was again engineered by Swiss company 4erC and executed by Esoro. Automotive supplier Kostal added the element of nature to the car with a custom removable planter.
To interact with the Harman LIVS (Life-Enhancing Intelligent Vehicle Solutions) infotainment system, occupants use a slightly curved 5K widescreen display with voice- or gesture-control that spans the width of the interior in front of its passengers. In manual mode, it presents the most important information in condensed form. The images of the electronic rearview mirrors are dimmed when not needed. The ZF steering wheel can fold flat and turn into a keyboard or work surface to transform the car into a self-driving office on wheels, complete with Office productivity software and Skype video telephony with live translation.
The windscreen serves as a giant display for virtual and augmented realities, with holographic laser projection technology developed by WayRay, allowing significantly larger than conventional head-up displays. Techniplas, a specialist for cognitive and networked products, developed the multi-functional rear window.
The car’s personal assistant is also at the driver’s disposal outside the car thanks to a link to the Harman Ignite Cloud Platform, which allows controlling the owner’s smart home remotely. BlackBerry QNX supplies an integrated and certified secure and protected software platform for the self-driving vehicle.
Rinspeed designed and equipped the car for multiple use cases related to ownership, operation scenario, and usage. A digital access system from supplier Huf makes it possible. Contributing to the mobility concept were consulting firm EY, which did a study on the individualization of mobility, and TOG-Tübitak, the Turkish research center examining issues of tomorrow’s transport in its own mobility lab.
Transmitting large volumes of data and information is of fundamental importance for autonomous driving in particular. The intelligent antenna systems from Vites integrated into the roof play a crucial role in this regard. Use of intelligent traffic management solutions from Siemens helps to optimize traffic flow, providing more comfort in traveling, minimizing emissions, and enhancing the safety of all road users.
The Oasis uses sensors based on NXP technology to capture a 360-degree view of its surroundings with precision. Thanks to vehicle-to-vehicle communication, it can even look around corners and obstacles. This sensor fusion is then used to compute the safe driving maneuver.
An innovative car-sharing app from MHP allows choosing potential passengers by interest or profession. The Mini Mica from connectivity specialist Harting is a scalable and flexible computing architecture, which uses different modules for adapting the car to the particular requirements of the vehicle user, and installs the corresponding technology features. This makes an individualization of the Oasis “fleet” with efficient use of resources possible.
At the 2017 Geneva Motor Show in early March, the Volkswagen Group took the wraps off the first concept car to be developed by the parent company meant to be a cross-brand ideas platform. It was engineered from scratch for autonomous driving and is part of a broader VW Group integrated concept for mobility of the future.
The Sedric, short for self-driving car, highlights the major importance of fully automated driving in the company’s future strategy. The car’s innovative control system enables autonomous driving at the touch of a button, the self-driving automobile taking its passengers safely to their destination.
Sedric is the first VW concept car to be created for fully autonomous SAE Level 5 driving—with no driver required. It was conceived, developed, and built at the Volkswagen Group Future Center in Potsdam, in collaboration with Group Research in Wolfsburg. Sedric’s “creators” present at the Geneva launch were Johann Jungwirth, Volkswagen Group’s Chief Digital Officer; Ulrich Eichhorn, Head of Research & Development; and Michael Mauer, Head of Group Design.
The technical backbone of the Sedric is VW’s new MEB modular electric drive kit, the foundation for future VW all-electric cars. Electric propulsion enabled a people-friendly engineered structure. The flat battery unit is installed between the axles, and a compact electric motor is fitted between the wheels. The classic proportions of present-day vehicles are gone, the monolithic base frame doing away with common elements such as the hood or shoulder line. The 2+2 interior was designed to maximize interior space on a minimal footprint, with a wheelbase almost identical with VW’s up. Air-conditioning and self-driving system control are positioned in the compact overhangs, front and rear.
The technological heart that makes all this possible is the self-driving system based on artificial intelligence, with 360-degree LiDAR lasers, radar systems, laser sensors, numerous cameras, high-end ultrasound sensor technology, and highly-accurate digital maps that are updated in real time with the help of crowd data. The data are transmitted to a very powerful compact control unit that VW claims that, until a few years ago, supercomputers the size of a sports hall would have been needed to provide such processing power.
Passengers can talk to Sedric just like a personal assistant about the destination, how to get there, the driving time, the current traffic situation, and even a short break on the way. “You choose whether Sedric takes you to your destination by the shortest, fastest, or most scenic route,” said Müller. “During the ride you can spend your time just as you like: working, making calls, talking to the other passengers or just relaxing. Sedric drops you off at your destination, and then drives away to automatically find a parking space or to serve the next passenger.”
The mobility experience revolves around a control element consisting of a pushbutton and a ring that indicates Sedric’s arrival time with colored signals and vibrations—the latter for persons with impaired vision. User access is by a two-part door swing that opens wide and tall, extending up into the roof, to make it easy for passengers to get in even with luggage.
Since Sedric does not require a driver, a steering wheel and pedals are not needed, and the interior is designed to be “a comfortable lounge on wheels.” The 2+2 person design makes optimum use of floor area, with the two rear seats acting as a comfortable couch. The vehicle’s novel HVAC design has air-purifying plants positioned in front of the rear window that enhance the effect of generously dimensioned bamboo charcoal air filters. The windshield is comprised of a large, transparent, high-resolution OLED screen with augmented reality and serves as a communication and entertainment center.
At the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show, the unlikely combination of Italdesign and Airbus revealed to the world a collaboration project dubbed Pop.Up, which they claim is the first modular, fully electric, zero emissions concept vehicle system designed to relieve traffic congestion in crowded megacities. The modular system for multimodal transportation makes use of both ground and airspace.
The Pop.Up system consists of three major engineered systems. An artificial intelligence platform, based on its acquired knowledge, manages the travel complexity, offers alternative usage scenarios, and ensures a seamless travel experience. The vehicle, or passenger capsule, is designed to be coupled with two different and independent electrically propelled modules for ground or air travel. The partnership says that other public means of transportation, such as trains or hyperloops, could also integrate with the Pop.Up capsule in the future. An interface module dialogues with users in a fully virtual environment.
The new user-focused transportation system concept aims to give time back to commuters through a more flexible, shared, and adaptable way of moving within cities. The Pop.Up vehicle combines the flexibility of a small, two-seat ground vehicle with the freedom with a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) air vehicle.
Passengers plan their journey and/or book their trip via a mobile app. The system automatically suggests the best transport intermodal travel solution—based on timing, traffic congestion, costs, and ridesharing demands—joining either the air or ground module or other means of transportation to the passenger capsule, depending on passengers’ preferences and needs.
Once passengers reach their destination, the air and ground modules, with the capsule, autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers. Combined with other means of public transportation, the Pop.Up concept could be extended to provide a more comprehensive end-to-end travel experience. A user hypothetically could stay for their entire journey in the same capsule without needing to switch among travel modes.
The passenger capsule is a high-tech, carbon-fiber monocoque for up to two passengers and 200 kg (440 lb). For travel on earth, the capsule is coupled to the ground module, a carbon-fiber chassis that is battery powered. The electric powertrain for ground travel features two electric motors in the rear for a total power of 60 kW, a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph), and a range of 130 km (81 mi). Charging time for the 15 kW·h battery back is 15 min.
For journeys involving high traffic congestion, the capsule disconnects from the ground module and is carried by an air module. In this configuration, Pop.Up becomes a self-piloted air vehicle, taking advantage of the vertical dimension to get from point A to B efficiently, leaving the traffic congestion on the ground. Its electric powertrain features eight 17-kW motors producing total power of 136 kW and total range of 100 km (60 mi). In air mode, the assembly can transport up to two passengers and 600 kg (1320 lb) at a top speed of 100 km/h. Charging time is 15 min drawing on a battery energy capacity of 70 kW·h.
Renault’s vision of Formula 1 ten years from now, in the form of the R.S. 2027 Vision concept revealed at Auto Shanghai 2017, places people at the center of the action for a complete experience. Propelled by a more-electric propulsion system, the driver is better showcased, has a greater connection to fans, the sport better protects its participants, and the series takes more active responsibility toward the environment.
Although instantly recognizable as an F1 single-seater, with its long, slender nose, side pods, and four open wheels, the concept’s design is more aggressive. In addition to optimizing performance and energy efficiency, a combination of mobile aerodynamic features and active lighting systems make the cars more “communicative” to viewers. Fans benefit from a closer connection to the driver thanks to a transparent cockpit. The lightweight shell is 3D-printed, with forms tailored to the driver’s body. The helmet is also transparent, enabling fans to better see the driver’s face and expressions.
Bold features like the C-shaped LED front lights and the illuminated Renault diamond on the engine cover provide a visual tie between the racing car and Renault’s road-going models. Active LED lighting in the wheels displays a range of information, including the driver’s position and the car’s remaining energy reserves, making it easier for viewers to understand how the race unfolds. The digital display on the steering wheel informs the driver of his “fan ranking” position, which is determined by spectators’ interaction on social media, rewarding the most deserving driver on the track with an additional boost of power in the last laps.
Some of the driver’s telemetry data is accessible to fans via the Internet, enhancing their overall understanding of the race and the strategy. This data also allows connected players to participate real-time in the race and compete against their heroes.
Since driver safety will continue to be a high priority in Formula 1 in 2027, the F1 concept incorporates some novel safety features. One of those is autonomous driving function.
The delegation of driving duties to the car is automatically activated during race incidents such as a safety car, virtual safety car, yellow flags, etc. In these situations, mandatory single-file running and other restrictions—bans on overtaking, speed limits, etc.—are managed entirely by the car, minimizing the risk of further accidents and ensuring the safety of competitors and track marshals.
The car’s closed cockpit protects the driver from flying debris and other dangerous objects. The aerodynamic canopy is made of impact- and flame-resistant polycarbonate. It is framed by two titanium pop-up roll-over bars that deploy in milliseconds should the car overturn, providing the driver with a gap between the cockpit and ground from which to escape.
Connectivity functions meant to mimic consumer technology exchange information based on what is happening in the race.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication lets drivers know exactly where each competitor is on the track or in pit-lane. This feeds information to the pit lane’s predictive collision warning system, preventing teams from releasing drivers while another car is passing by at speed.
Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, with peripheral systems on the steering wheel’s digital screen, includes the immediate display of instructions, such as yellow or blue flags, given by the race director. A direct link is established with the marshals in the section of the track where each car is running.
Renault expects F1 hybrid propulsion to reach an unheard of weight/power ratio—1000 kW (1340 hp) for a weight limited to 600 kg (1320 lb)—while becoming more efficient and electric. V6 combustion engines will be downsized, and fuel tank capacities will shrink to just 60 kg (130 lb) compared with 105 kg (230 lb) currently, a smaller quantity for proposed shorter, more exciting race durations.
In addition, the level of power generated by the propulsion’s kinetic energy recovery system is raised considerably to 500 kW—compared with 120 kW in 2017—courtesy of two ERS-K units, one each front and rear. The resulting four-wheel drive configuration delivers better traction for the single-seater racing car.
Renault envisions batteries with energy density twice that of current F1 technology feeding and regenerating the ultra-high-performance dual-energy recovery system. Thanks to the two 250-kW electric motors front and rear, the bulk of the energy normally wasted under braking can be recovered and stored for later use during the same lap.