Renault recently collaborated with London art school Central Saint Martins to offer the college’s MA Industrial Design students the opportunity to experience the French car manufacturer’s Global Design Studios via a futuristic-themed competition.
Tasked with the brief of creating an interior for an autonomous-focused car, the winning three-member “Oura” project imagined a one-person wearable vehicle suit with a gesture-controlled, ‘head-up display’ visor using virtual reality technology and where the vehicle’s interior is almost completely stripped away and the user interacts more closely with their environment as they travel.
“As autonomous technologies have the potential to eliminate collisions, it is possible to radically reduce the physicality of a vehicle designed to absorb impact,” explained Lily Saporta Tagiuri, leader of the all-female winning group Oura. “The intrinsic safety of this autonomous technology allows us to strip the car of it’s protective structure as well as its driver-centric componentry, resulting in a massively reduced flyweight vehicle.”
Said to have been inspired by an image of a ballet dancer lifting their partner, the wearer-come-rider is held and supported by a flexible structure of woven steel, carbon-fibre and silicone; suspended – seemingly weightlessly – between spherical wheels driven by electric motors, and stabilised by an array of inbuilt gyroscopes.
The Oura team beat competition from eight other teams of Central Saint Martins students that involved judges whittling down 27 ideas from nine teams to three finalists and one overall winner.
Anthony Lo, vice-president of exterior design at Renault, said: “The final three entries all have great merit but we were most impressed by Oura because the designers went beyond the confines of a vehicle and created the most surprising concept.”
Nicholas Rhodes, programme director of the Product Ceramic & Industrial Design department at Central Saint Martins, added: “The design of an autonomous vehicle is a major challenge that invites many questions and identifies many problems beyond the purely pragmatic and the infrastructural. The interior design of any such vehicle requires complete rethinking and reframing which brings massive opportunities for new forms of interaction and time use in transit.”
The two runners-up projects were SYEO, an acronym for Share Your Extra Office, whose team came up with a vehicle that could act as a mobile office with seats that inflated into different configurations (“to combat high London rents” say the designers) and Phantasy, a project which imagined a colourful, configurable three-wheeler party or commuter urban car said to have been inspired by product designer Verner Panton.
The winning students will now visit Renault Design at the Technocentre in Paris in early July giving them a hands-on chance to see behind the scenes at how Renault designs its future models.
From left to right: Lily Saporta Tagiuri, Zhenyou Gao, Anthony Lo and Evgeniya Chernykh