A design studio based in San Francisco has produced a conceptual vision for an autonomous passenger vehicle for the year 2040. Able to comfortably seat seven people, the designers see the Autonomobile taking care of all that tedious driving from A to B while those onboard sit back on the curved sofa and watch a movie, play games or catch up with the news on a large touchscreen display. And if the mood calls for some refreshments, the vehicle can even take care of that too.
If autonomous passenger vehicles bring to mind the taxi from "Total Recall" with a ventriloquist-doll-like robotic driver at the front then you're obviously not on the same page as designers Mike Simonian and Maaike Evers. A person entering their Autonomobile (or ATNMBL for short) concept vehicle through a standing-height entryway will be greeted with a simple question: "Where can I take you?"
Passengers are not expected to share the burden of driving the solar-assisted electric vehicle, there is no steering wheel or brake pedal and definitely no driver's seat. Instead the ATNMBL will drive itself, leaving those onboard to just sit back and relax. There'll be wrap-around seating for up to seven people and a centrally-oriented flat screen display panel to offer trip details, entertainment such as movies or games, or business information. The touchscreen interface will feature Internet browsing capabilities, communication tools and can also rise up to reveal a mini-bar behind.
The designers see possible money-making potential for ATNMBL owners too, "On a typical morning commute, for instance, once your ATNMBL has taken you to work, it can continue taking other people within your social network to work, thus making you money, rather than sitting idly in a parking lot." Like other community transport proposals, it's also envisaged that numbers of vehicles on the same route will be able to group together to form commuter trains, with individual cars leaving the convoy for the last part of their journey.
One look at the design, which recently picked up a silver award at the 2010 International Design Excellence Awards, will tell you that this car will not be built with "Fast & Furious" speed junkies in mind. The designers say that the project dismisses "the need for extreme MPH and acceleration as irrelevant, ATNMBL proposes a new standard of performance: one of time-saving, quality of life, and increased exploration."
The ATNMBL is of course conceptual at the moment, it's being offered to "provoke thought and stir up new conversations about the car industry's next destination." Although, much of the technology needed to run it exists now – from the electric hub motor on each wheel to the electronically tinted windows to the various navigational gadgetry required to get it to its destination.
In fact, an Italian research project has recently started on an 8,000 mile driverless journey from Rome, Italy to Shanghai, China in order to prove that autonomous transport of goods by road is possible. So maybe it won't be too long before proposals like ATNMBL become a welcome reality.