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Design Students: What Does the Car of 2030 Look Like?

interiormotives.jpgAutomotive design magazine Interior Motives has announced its 2006 student design competition, and it's one that may be of particular interest for WorldChangers. The theme is "2030," and the goal is to present a scenario-based vehicle design able to meet the environmental, regional and social demands of the world of nearly 25 years from now.

How will...
...future designers manage the myriad of technologies and innovations in areas such as drivetrain, construction, driving controls, electronics and communications in parallel with the rise of hybrid vehicles and fuel cell vehicles?
...designers create increasingly adaptable, personalised and connected interior environments in which occupants can sit and control vehicles in ever-increasing comfort and safety?
...this happen alongside the drive to diminish the car's negative social and environmental impact by improving its urban integration, and minimising its energy waste and pollution?

25 years is a long time, and some of the concerns we have at present about the impact of automobiles may be moot by then. Concepts of "personal rapid transit," intelligent transportation systems," and other "dual-mode" systems blur the distinction between personal and mass transit. Social aspects will likely count more than technology, such as market models like "car sharing" that change the underlying ownership assumption of personal vehicles. The biggest consideration will almost certainly be that the demand for personal transportation in China and India will be in full flower by 2030 -- and automakers who don't design for those markets could be swept away.

The grand prize for the Interior Motives Award competition is US$5,000, and awards for individual categories such as "best innovation" and "best eco design concept" are $500. The competition is open to college or university-level design students (undergraduate and graduate) anywhere in the world, including "students of fashion design, textile design or other design courses as well as students of engineering and architecture." Registration deadline is March 15, 2006; submissions deadline is May 31, 2006; winners will be announced September 29, 2006.

(Via Core77 Design Blog)

Comments (12)


The idea of projecting ahead at future marketing trends and designs has been filled with a number of assumptions that generally fail to grasp future needs. What companies, designers and managers fail to take into account is the driving forces that shape society. What they are and how they affect the future economic situation is something that is not taught or talked about, especially by designers. In order to design for future needs, you need to be aware of 3 to 4 basic driving forces: Energy, demography, education and efficiecny.

By this I mean the following: Does it make sense to design individual cars or to design for mass transit? How can you accertain if this will be the trend in the future? You need to know what energy source will be the most plentiful (it won't be oil) and to design around tranportation routes that take into account the cost of energy.

In the end, those that design with these assumptions in mind (based on data, not hopeful speculation) will be able to successfully project the "winning" design.

N. Eng:

I agree that forces (whichever you choose to identify) can lead the direction of change (faster, cheaper, simpler to use), but change itself happens rather discontinuously. The addition of a few key technologies tends to really muck with predictions:

- The sword of the future was the gun;
- The filing cabinet of the future was the hard drive;
- Yet most of us still depend on handwriting and paper every day. You can still find fountain pens in the local office supply store.

Design is about function. The function of a car is transport. So the question that is actually being asked is "what does the transportation system of the future look like." Based on that, some form of "personal rapid transit" is probably the most likely. I'm curious if the judging criteria take that into account.


Change is a function of energy utilization in any society. The greatest changes that occurred at any point in history were driven by energy availability per person in the population. The rise of industrilization was brought about by energy availability (in the form of coal) and the rapid industrilization of a society was brougth about by demographic trends. Locomotives arose to take advantage of coal power, but efficient personal transportation required a denser energy package (oil).

I agree that design is based on function, but design is limited by resources and energetics, as well. Designers that can take into account resources and energetics will produce the "winning" design.

Why is it that every auto design competition awards first prize to the car most like the Jetsons' from Hanna Barbera? The year 2030 is 24 years hence. Twenty four years past was 1982. In 1982, the best selling vehicle was the Ford Escort. Today, it is the Ford F-150 pickups. We're going in the wrong direction. I don't see a drastic evolution in such a short a time. Automakers aren't that eager to bring change.

Mark Brandon
Sustainable Log - News and Views for Socially Responsible Investors
When you subscribe to Sustainable Log, we give $1 to Alternative Gifts International in support of a cause of your choice.

Pace Arko:

I think I agree with Messrs. Brandon and Eng on this.

If the computer is the filing cabinet of the future, what is the real automobile of the future?

Increases in urban density, the revival of mass transit, telecommuting, telepresense and onsite fabrication.

What's left for personal locomotives? Vacations and delivery of goods that can't be fabricated onsite, that's about it.

the other tom:

True evolution would be the virtual elimination of the automobile from our cities. The auto should be a minor component in the overall transportation/communication system. For those addicted to the fantasy of ever more powerful and exotic automobiles, let's provide race tracks at race tracks, not what will be left of our highway system.

If we must have need sort of personal transit device besides the bicyle, the foot, or the motor scooter, make it some sort of pod that could be literally integrted into an electric mass transit system.

Start from the premise of very little energy and work the design backwards.

Auntie Irma:

To echo Mr. Brandon, 2030 is only 24 years away from now. 24 years ago was 1982. Cars then weren't meaningfully different from cars today. The major differences are: the development of SUVs (a lifestyle choice), the introduction of hybrids (another lifestyle choice, even if an enlightened one), practical tools (GPS, On-Star), and entertainment (massive stereos, CD changers, in-car video players, etc...). Other than that, I don't think much has changed.

So then, why do we think cars will meaningfully change between now and 2030? The most likely changes will probably have to do with accessories (onboard internet, next generation telephony, etc...). Or lifestyle evolutions. If SUVs were the major lifestyle evolutions of the past 24 years, followed by hybrids, we should probably ask the trendwatchers and the Faith Popcorns of the world what lifestyle evolutions they expect to see in the next two decades and design for that.

All of this assumes, of course, that oil won't collapse. If it does, all bets are off, and the vehicle of choice probably won't be a car at all. An ethanol-powered moped? Solar-powered, motorized hand-gliders? Can you imagine commuting to work on one of those? But, then again, if oil collapses, will any of us be commuting anymore, or will we simply be working from home? Or even working at all...

Auntie Irma:

PS: What do you all think about the fact that this competition seems like a pretty brilliant way for the automotive industry to get some massively innovative thinking and game-changing cognitive leaps for peanuts. $5000 top prize for something that will make the car companies millions? Hmmm....


Cars of 2030... will be very different.

As e have progressed the thickness of doors and walls and the floor in our cars has gone down while safety increased.

That will be redone and then some.

Car shells 1 cm thick WITH crash frame. Underbodies 5-10cm thick. Tires half the width yet twice the traction when needed. No more transmission no more radiator no more heavy glass widnshields no more 100lb seats.
The average car will weigh less then half a ton but be bigger then now.

How about a contest for design of the new highway in 2030? Make a new path, require a new vehicle.

As an artist, I've had pals in these competitions in the leading/winning uber-transportation-desgin schools like ART CENTER in LA.
Sure, it's good to help both young designers & old auto execs to think about such issues.

And I agree with most of what has been said already here in previous posts.

But along the lines of some of the thoughts I agree with most, I'd have to say that the big issues surround the overall transportation scenarios,
e.g. energy sources, vehicle sharing, new types of connections or future conduits (e.g. our current underground lightrail & subways).

I understand that the US gov't is giving lots of grants or at least SOME $$ help to small firms designing flying vehicles such as personal yet affordable helicopters:
One company is aiming at a current design---the tail-less or "non-tail-rotor" design that cuts the huge issue of piloting difficulty out of the heli scenario--and thus this type of helicopter could reach the masses & thus down to retail cost of $20k per vehicle, an extraordinary breakthrough for road congestion & more.

With such a development (and we can't predict similar ideas such as the previous post that talked of lighweight flying personal winged options), well then, the design of a simple "car-ish vehicle" of the future becomes a pretty big step when looking so far down the, uh, road.

As far as the issue of the recent past, i.e. those who mentioned what little changes
we've really seen in the last 25 years,
well, I have to say that the next 25 will be drastically different due to energy issues, political change,
and the rate of technological change, that sort of tech-explosion that can, pardon the pun, jetison things in an unpredictable direction.

What I fear then, in these competitions, are "cool" looking designs such as near future sci-fi films would throw at us.

It's the inter-related issues of economic, energy & similar changes that have me in agreement with those who lean toward the transportation system's issues, not so much the individual vehicle's nice new look.

But at this point in our polluting, outdated mechanistic worldview (oil, etc.), just about any new set of ideas will help perhaps.


I'll bet that no matter what it looks like, it'll be electric, and it won't have a mechanical transmission.


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