Applied Minds’ inventor Creates Kiravan Supertruck for Daughter


bran ferren, the 64-year-old co-founder and chief creative officer of applied minds, the california-based technology and design maketank, has created a 23 ton go-anywhere vehicle to take his daughter kira round the world. the inventor spent five years designing the world’s most high-tech off-road vehicle – as a supertruck for adventures with his little girl, featuring more handy survival features than a ‘swiss-army knife on wheels’.

all images © applied minds

the ‘kiravan‘ is a six wheeled supertruck capable of housing a family of three for a fortnight, while travelling 2,000 miles without refuelling and tackling slopes of up to 45 degrees. the all-terrain vehicle is comprised of a highly modified unimog-based tractor, a fully customized composite trailer, and a turbo-diesel motorcycle. its 31 feet (9.5 meter) long and more than 10 feet (3 meter) high trailer, offers a kitchen, bathroom, and even a ‘penthouse’ suite. its technological features are among the most innovative in the world, featuring kevlar-reinforced tires, drones to scout the terrain ahead, plus seven communication masts reaching heights of 60 ft (18 m).

the supertruck’s communications system is capable of communicating with nearby aircraft, meaning it is impossible to be caught off-the-radar. its readings are displayed on an array of touchscreens in the main cockpit, and there is an emergency beacon transmitter. safety features include a ‘situational awareness system’ of 22 mounted cameras, infrared thermal readings of the road’s temperature, and a ‘hydro-drive’ control, enabling the driver to switch between four, and six wheel drive for tougher terrain.

preliminary conceptual work on the ‘kiravan’ began in 2010 as a natural follow on to ferren’s ‘maximog‘ expedition system, which was displayed at the museum of modern art in new york. after 15 years, ferren felt it was time for something creatively new that reflects what is technically possible now and benefits from what applied minds had learned. not coincidentally, the timing was also triggered by the arrival of his daughter, kira, and the realization that accommodating the needs and safety of a child presents many new design considerations.

the base-tractor is a modified mercedes-benz ‘unimog U500NA’ with a six-cylinder in-line 260 hp intercooled turbo-diesel engine providing 700ft-lb of torque. the chassis frame has been stretched and reinforced, with a four-door composite crew cabin added, and an off-road articulating fifth-wheel trailer hitch attached. the fuel system and tanks are heated for extreme cold and bio-fuel use and incorporate extensive filtration capabilities.