Kaid Benfield Archive


So, is it an advanced car? A living room on wheels? The end of the world as we know it? You decide.

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 10, 2009 at 4:47PM

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You know, I don't think this design for a driverless car was created with tongue in cheek, though it certainly could have been.  I generally think of futuristic designers and Google-ites as a fun bunch, so surely this is intended humor, part of me initially thought.  But another part of me has slowly come to realize that they are quite serious.

whizzing along on your sofa (courtesy of Mike and Maaike)You read correctly, by the way: I did write "driverless car."  Should work out great, right?  Just like the automatic operating system on the DC Metro.  Oh wait . . .

The design comes to us from the San Francisco industrial design firm Mike and Maaike, and I mention Google because they also designed the Google Phone.  The new design is called ATNMBL, an abbreviation of sorts for "autonomobile." M&M's website for the design carries rotating taglines for their new imagined contraption, my favorite being "the end of driving." 

Basically, after you tell the vehicle where you want to go, you and up to six of your friends sit on a circular sofa and browse the web, drink mojitos, it even parks itself (courtesy of Mike and Maaike)watch the game, count cows or whatever while it takes you there, drops you off, and parks itself.  Some tidbits from the website:

"Passengers enter ATNMBL from the curb side through an electric glass sliding door into a standing-height entryway.  Inside, the seating arrangement is a direct reference to the familiar living-room setting of a couch, side chair and low table. Riders are oriented towards each other and to the view outside through the large floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides. Centrally oriented is a large flat display that features live trip information, maps, and entertainment.  The display can slide up to reveal a bar behind . . .

"There is no steering wheel, brake pedal or drivers seat. ATNMBL drives for you. Electric powered plus solar assist, with wrap-around seating for seven, ATNMBL offers living and/or working comfort, views, conversations, entertainment, and social connectedness . . .

"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 make you money, rather than sitting idly in a parking lot. Groups of vehicles can travel in and out of swarms, each vehicle communicating with each other . . ."

So it's not just practical, it's friendly!  The website helpfully provides an image gallery so people like me can spread the word, along with all sorts of ideas and information, including predecessor designs from other sources and technical specifications.  M&M suggest that a driverless option might be available in cars in about a decade, and the fully autonomous mobile living room by 2040. 

I originally had something else in mind for today, but this was just too good to pass up.  Who needs walkability when life is just one big ride?  Maybe we had better keep building all those new roads after all.  And, best of all, I'll never have to miss an episode of The Hills or Real Housewives again.