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The Future of the Automobile

In the latest installment of our Half-Baked Design Challenge, we gave some of our most creative friends 30 minutes to redesign the automobile. Their solutions are at once absurd, profound, and probably not the answer to all our problems, so we also rounded up the fully-baked ideas at the forefront of this global transportation issue.

In the latest installment of our Half-Baked Design Challenge, we gave some of our most creative friends 30 minutes to redesign the automobile. Their solutions are at once absurd, profound, and probably not the answer to all our problems, so we also rounded up the fully-baked ideas at the forefront of this global transportation issue.

Free University of Berlin's Robot Taxis


Imagine a future when you might open an app on your smartphone and tell your car to drive to you. Raul Rojas, a professor of artificial intelligence at the Free University of Berlin, is testing technology to make a scenario like that possible. Like other self-driving cars, Rojas’ prototype design uses laser scanners to watch the road and GPS to navigate. In contrast to car sharing systems, which can’t guarantee cars on demand, Rojas’ robot taxis will be available to pick up passengers at any time. And unlike other taxis, they’ll be piloted by drivers who won’t refuse to take you to Brooklyn.

i3's BMW

Similar to other automotive manufacturers, BMW is increasingly positioning itself as a mobility company. The new i3, an all-electric vehicle launching in London this year and in Beijing and New York next year, is physically different; the car is made of ultra-light carbon fiber, and more than 80 percent of the vehicle parts can be recycled. The vehicle also comes with a redesigned model of car ownership. Because the i3 is meant for city use, BMW also lets drivers book a full-sized SUV for longer road trips. You essentially get the benefit of two cars while owning only one.

Lit Motors's Helmet Motorcycles

Most people commute to work with three empty seats, so what if cars of the future were single-seaters? Lit Motors, a startup based in California, has designed an enclosed motorcycle—Daniel Lim, the designer calls it, “driving your helmet”—that’s easy to learn to ride, thanks to gyroscopes that keep it upright at stops. The vehicles are powered by electric motors, and can reach top speeds of 120 miles per hour. Thanks to the size, these motorcycles use much less energy than a regular car, and take up half the space in a garage or on the road.

Illustrations by Thomas Porostocky.

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