Renault + central Saint Martins Present the Autonomous Car of the Future Concept


a collaborative design competition between renault + central saint martins unveils a vision of ‘the car of the future’ concept. shown for the first time at designjunction 2017, the competition was part of a challenge by the french-automaker to encourage the students of MA industrial design to think about the future of autonomous, modular car design, and how infrastructure and services might support it.

all images © renault / central saint martins

the competition was judged by two of renault’s senior design team – anthony lo, vice-president of exterior design and françois leboine, chief exterior designer – as well as nick rhodes, central saint martins programme director, product ceramic & industrial designer. the competition was whittled down from 15 students to three semi-finalists over the summer  – stephanie chang liu for her ‘flo’ design, which includes three different sized vehicles for three different uses, tuna yenici for his emotive vehicle named ‘vue’, and yuchen cai for her vision of vehicles moving around using maglev technology, called ‘the float’.

yuchen cai was announced as the winning student by anthony lo during designjunction 2017’s opening evening. cai created ‘the float’, a vision of a car that will provide a new way of connecting with people, a new form of mobility and portrays an idea of how drivers can be more open and social to the outside world as autonomy becomes ever popular. named ‘the float’, due to its form and function, cai’s vision of the vehicle of the future looks like a bubble when in transit. rather than moving on wheels, the vehicle uses magnetic levitation (maglev) technology. made with transparent glass on the exterior and with silver seats, it has a futuristic design aesthetic. the concept of the design is based around the car becoming more of a social space. in cai’s design, the car of the future provides a new way of connecting with people through tessellation, connecting with the outside world more thanks to the application of large swathes of glass and will also be ‘non-directional’ with the ability to move in any direction at any time without the need to turn around.

such is the design of cai’s autonomous vehicle concept, it allows pods for either one or two people to be made. through the geometry of these designs, numerous pods can be attached via a magnetic belt that runs around the exterior so more than two people can travel together. ingress and egress is easy thanks to swivelling bucket seats coupled with sliding doors, similar to those found on the london underground. a control on the seats enables the passenger to rotate their seat, open up a sound system to speak with passengers in pods connected to theirs and change the opacity of the glass – providing exclusivity or inclusivity according to the passenger’s requirements.

cai’s winning idea also included a smartphone app with which users would be able to rent a float at the touch of a button. similar to how one would hail an uber or other taxis in the present day, pods would be available to rent for one journey or for numerous days. as the winner, cai spent two weeks at renault’s design studios in paris over the summer, working with senior designers to hone her idea. whilst there, she experienced technology such as a full-size virtual reality suite, which puts the designer right inside the car.