As a card-carrying member of the vast Motor City diaspora, I'm always happy when the Detroit Auto Show rolls around. Formally known as the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), this annual showcase is a nice reminder that innovative technology often passes through Detroit on its way to bigger and better things.
Cool Concept Vehicles Push Futuristic Design
A case-in-point: Winners of the 2016 Michelin Challenge Design will be displaying their concepts at this week's show. The prestigious competition invites designers from the automotive and academic design communities to submit ideas for cutting-edge mobility concepts focusing on a specific theme.
Revamped Volkswagen Van Gets Electric Upgrade
The theme for this year's competition,"Mobility for All – Designing for the Next Frontier," challenged teams to come up with mobility solutions for underserved areas of the world.
Designed by Rajshekhar Dass, Abu Huraira Shaikh, Sunny Duseja, and Joji Isaac Abraham, the Community Vehicle is actually several vehicles rolled into one. The modular design allows for farmers to use the vehicle, on a day-to-day basis, as an all-purpose tractor-truck for agricultural work.
In an emergency situation, however, the vehicle can be turned into a makeshift ambulance - the drop-down floor and specialized suspension are designed to carry an injured person on a stretcher. The rear deck can also be reconfigured to morph the vehicle into a kind of mini-bus, for transporting passengers across the rough rural terrain and giving farmers another potential source of income.
Mystery Electric Car Startup Unveils Prototype
The Google part of the name comes from a larger plan to work with Google's Project Loon initiative, which would deploy weather balloons in the stratosphere to facilitate wireless communication in remote areas. During emergencies, farmers provided with the Community Vehicle could be dispatched to problem areas to transport injured persons or otherwise evacuate groups of passengers.
This year's second- and third-place teams - from Columbia and South Korea, respectively - will also be in attendance at this week's auto show. You can see those designs, plus eleven more finalists, at the Challenge Design website. In all, more than 800 registrants representing 68 countries participated in the competition.