If you're in the Boston area this week, be sure to head over to MIT Wednesday evening for the presentation "Concept Car: A Work in Progress."
William J. Mitchell, head of the Media Lab's program in Media Arts and Sciences, together with Ph.D. candidate Ryan Chin, [...] will highlight the group's efforts to radically rethink how cars will be designed for the city of the future. Possible features for such vehicles could include programmable exteriors that change according to need; networked, embedded intelligence that can help a driver avoid a traffic jam or alert another car to a danger ahead; remote-control steering; or wheels that would enable smart parallel parking.
Rather than mere transportation devices, cars of the future can become our wheeled companions that continually learn about the city they inhabit, and use that knowledge to provide an intelligent interface to the resources the city offers. Our hope is to invent a car that can function as though it has a good London cab driver built in, says Mitchell.
The presentation is taking place at the Wolk Gallery, which currently hosts the "Smart City Cars in the 21st Century" exhibition, exploring the possibility of "automobiles that are not just dumb transportation devices, but intelligent inhabitants of their citieswheeled robots that perceive, learn, remember, reason, and provide sophisticated, context-aware assistance and advice." The exhibit is hosted by the Smart Cities research group at the Media Lab. The Smart Cities project sounds intriguing, but its website is unfortunately quite stingy with information about the group's efforts.
The well-known (and controversial) architect Frank Gehry is part of the Smart Cities project, and leads the classes in which students explore a radical new car design. No doubt due to Gehry's involvement, the New York Times looks today at the class. One aspect of the design the Times mentions in passing is that the "basic parameters call for a hybrid or fuel cell power plant" -- a sign that the shift away from standard gasoline engines has taken hold in the design world (the inclusion of hybrid along with fuel cell technology is also a sign that the MIT team imagines that this vehicle could come about soon, not just at an unspecified future date).
The presentation Wednesday night is free and open to the public, and begins at 7pm; a pre-presentation reception begins at 5:30pm. Room details can be found in this press release.
I can't make it, being stuck over on the left coast, but if any of you go, please give us a report on the proceedings...