The Cars of the Future… Today


Last week, I shared a few Million Dollar Ideas that had me asking: “Why didn’t I think of that?” Those ingenious inventions had me wondering – how might I find a way to contribute to advances and innovations in my own field? To get inspired, I decided to see what our industry is up to these days. I didn’t have to look far.

Just this week on LinkedIn, Ford announced its intent to have fully autonomous vehicles in commercial operation by 2021. That’s right. In just five years, Ford will be mass producing vehicles with no steering wheel, no gas pedals, no brake pedals, and no driver required. Which immediately made me think: “Where we’re going we don’t need…roads!” – Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future.

Turns out innovation in transportation is a such a popular pursuit, companies sponsor yearly contests encouraging engineers, designers, and would-be inventors to bring their best to the field.

There’s CES, the world’s biggest annual technology show, where automakers show off their radical new ideas like this hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicle from Toyota.

And there’s the Detroit Auto Show where you’ll see gorgeous, futuristic cars you can purchase today, if vehiclesyou can stomach the steep six-figure price tags – the VLF Force 1 Viper is a mere $268,500.

Perhaps the most interesting exhibition of futuristic vehicles is the Michelin Design Challenge, a series of yearly events sponsored by the famous tire company. Encompassing far more than just tires, the Michelin Design Challenge posits a possible specific advancement in the world of transportation to its entrants.
Entrance is not limited to professionals or leaders in the field, either! Any individual designer or student with a thought and a dream can put them together and enter the challenge. The 2016 challenge was Mobility for All, focusing on transportation in all regions. The winning designs included vehicles that would assist people in flooded regions, undeveloped areas, and even in the Andes mountains, where coffee-picking is a difficult and dangerous process.

vehiclesPart of the intrigue of the Michelin Design Challenge is that it allows engineers from all over the world to showcase projects and technology from their respective countries while presenting solutions to problems unique to their region that might benefit from global attention.

For next year’s challenge, designers are encouraged to dream up a vehicle intended for Le Mans, the famed 24-hour vehicle race. Le Mans organizers encourage cars that not only win, but do so while remaining stylish and sustainable. Designers are being asked to submit a vehicle that might win Le Mans in 2030.

Call me a geek, but the first thing that pops into my mind is Doc and Marty McFly in a red DeLorean. But then again, I’m reminded that as of 2015 – everything in Back to the Future is now in the past… and not many of those vehicular predictions came true!

Do something McFly this weekend,