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zaZen shows new ways to automotive enlightenment

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December 20, 2005

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December 21, 2005 Two of the world’s most innovative technology companies have joined to showcase a new automotive lighting technology and a transparent roof design in a concept car built for next February’s Geneva Motor Show. Rinspeed is one of the usual culprits – every year they show yet another bleeding edge automotive concept, and they always deliver a working prototype. This time it has conspired with Bayer Material Science to create a single-section roof dome made of the high-tech polycarbonate which enables some interesting illumination properties, including a holographic brake light. The entire roof dome from the belt line up is made of a single sheet of transparent Bayer polycarbonate which can be switched from transparent to opaque at the press of a button. This property also enables any superfluous knobs and displays on the dashboard to be “faded out” so the driver can concentrate on what is most important. And instead of a living-room atmosphere, the occupants sit in "glass-like" plastic seat shells in a bright and friendly orange colour. The interior is an invitation to meditative unity for man and machine. Everything has been reduced to essentials, hence the name of the concept car, the "zaZen".

On February 28, 2006, at the Geneva Motor Show, the exciting "zaZen" will go on show for the first time. The famous Swiss design company Rinspeed, and Bayer MaterialScience, one of the world's biggest plastics producers, have been working together for some time on this revolutionary new concept car that will point the way to enlightenment for future generations of automobiles. As if from nowhere, the conspicuously large third brake light shines out of what looks like a floating, transparent teardrop roof. The technical revolution in the car's design is that the transparent rear window has been turned into a luminous holographic area.

The world premiere of the "zaZen", with its holographic brake light and smoothly contoured single-section roof dome made of the high-tech polycarbonate Makrolon, marks the beginning of a new era in lighting technology in vehicle design. This, at any rate, is how Ian Paterson, the member of the Bayer MaterialScience Board of Management responsible for innovation, sees it.

The innovative light is also an important step for Rinspeed's boss, Frank M. Rinderknecht, on the way to attaining automotive enlightenment. The name of the new concept car has been deliberately chosen to reflect the overall attitude with which both companies have driven the entire project forward over a period of many months. After all, Zen – borrowed from Buddhist teaching – is a special form of insight that is only attainable if you are prepared to give up preconceived ideas.

This highly transparent four-wheeled creation, the product of one vision and many imaginative ideas, is currently taking shape at the Swiss engineering specialists, Esoro.

It is an automotive interplay of veiling and unveiling.

The entire roof dome down to the belt line is made of a single sheet of transparent Bayer polycarbonate. The amazing thing about it is that the material can be made non-transparent at the press of a button to protect the occupants from curious gazes. Because the transparency can simply be switched on and off, it means that any superfluous knobs and displays on the dashboard can be simply faded out so that the driver can concentrate on what is most important, the speed indicator, instead of being bombarded with unnecessary information. And instead of a living-room atmosphere, the occupants sit in "glass-like" plastic seat shells in a bright and friendly orange color. The interior is an invitation to meditative unity for man and machine.

Everything has been reduced to essentials, to what really matters. This is the heart of the "zaZen". The extremely organically designed body does not assault the eye with harsh colors but exerts a quiet fascination with its mineral-white color. This is achieved in an understated yet breathtakingly beautiful manner through the use of millions of tiny precious Swarovski crystals protected by a self-healing polyurethane clear coat. In its made-to-measure suit, "zaZen" seems to belong to another world. In our world, it will make its first appearance at the end of February at the Geneva Motor Show. After that, who knows? We might see some of these exclusive vehicles actually driving along our roads.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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