Remember the 2004 movie I,Robot starring Will Smith, a bunch of crazy Apple-inspired robots and the spherical drive-equipped hovering Audi RSQ? Now there's a company trying to bring that to life, building a hover DeLorean as an entry for the Automotive X prize.
Sprinkled throughout the film were spherical-wheeled Audis and a few other concept cars. Our favorite scene was when Will Smith's character is calmly driving down the freeway and gets attacked by two robot transporters deciding to pull off some tricky maneuvers by rotating 180 degrees to surround him while continuing to drive forward. After the crazy Steve Jobs drone robots start to attack, Will Smith's character puts the Audi RSQ into a 360 degree spin, again while driving straight, in an effort to eject the robots from the car. Neat! But what if this wasn't just movie magic? What if there was a company trying to produce a spherical drive unit today? Where could I find this awesome piece of tech, you ask? Well, a company called AirShip Technologies Group is doing just that, but they've upped the nerd quotient even more by using everyone's favorite future car, the DMC DeLorean of Back to the Future fame.
Built to compete in the highly lucrative Automotive X-Prize, AirShip Technologies Group's maglev-style, spherical-drive DeLorean will be powered by magnets, dual lithium-ion battery packs, elf dreams and unicorn farts –- essentially allowing it to glide across the ground like a magic carpet. And really, anything powered by "track balls" can't be too bad.
We'll let AirShip Technologies Group explain details of the concept from their website below:
"AirShip Technologies Group has filed a Letter of Intent to enter the competition for the Progressive Insurance AXP (Automotive X PRIZE). The PI-AXP is a very powerful design, development, construction and ultimately a race to sustain 100 mile/gallon vehicles that meet certain design aspects, tests and endurance as they undergo various road conditions.
Various competitor entries are expected, but none will show the agility of AirShip Technologies Group's vehicle known as the AirShip. The AirShip ground transport vehicle is designed from the ground up to be powered by electric based track-spheres. Critically developed transit track spheres or "track balls", shell brakes, suspension systems and guidance software are specified for adaptation to the chassis. For ground transit, all four drive train track spheres have a revolutionary electric base powertrain assembly that incorporates a free moving spherical ball that replaces traditional wheels and tires. The track sphere wheel assembly rotates the spheres by forward, aft and lateral electric motors that can change the direction of travel on demand. The motors fit into circular frame hubs that hold the spheres in place, vastly simplifying the drive system and eliminating the need for fuels that produce Green House Gases (GHGs).
At the Kent State University TRIZCON2008 Problem Solving Event (April 2008) for the Altshuller Institute of TRIZ Studies, the Track Sphere technology design and development was modified and accelerated in order to move AirShip concept vehicle components to a Delorean ATG production car. The experimental workshop in support of the US$10 million Automotive X PRIZE had delegates from Germany, Israel, Ireland, Russia, UK, Korea, Taiwan, and multiple US states. Represented were several members from the industries of electronics, automotive, aerospace, control systems and textile industries, tire industry, universities, private industry and consulting. The X PRIZE will go to the vehicle that can demonstrate 100 miles per gallon or the equivalent in alternative fuels and able to drive at 100 miles/hour, in a production-capable vehicle.
The science of the Track Sphere hyper-efficient transit drive system and integrated frame and hub, enables the driver to maneuver all four spheres for better handling and steering control while moving the AirShip in a 180-degree motion on center for reverse from a stationary position. Enter the AirShip with the ability to exploit electric power that has a long life expectancy as an efficient, quiet and powerful energy source alternative. Those off-the-shelf electric power sources currently under consideration for vehicle propulsion are Bio-Diesel, Fuel Cell, and Lithium-ion Battery Packs; plus Solar Fabric Photovoltaic's for supplemental vehicle electronics.
AirShipTG's design is focused on aerodynamics of speed and light weight manufacturing. The exterior car body is made of composites, stainless steel or aluminum. AirShip's lightweight composite frame structure is similar to those found in race cars and jet aircraft; yet this one weighs a scant 250 pounds and can support 2,200 pounds gross weight.
Using an Open Technology Innovation approach developed from work in the Open Source Software industry, we are modifying the AirShip Use Case for ground transit only in order to make the Automotive X-Prize 100 miles per gallon (or equivalent in alternative fuels or electricity) and the 100 miles per hour vehicle qualifying requirements.
We all love our automobiles, but this initiative is designed to reduce green house gases for the world! In fact, our cars even take on our personalities or visa versa; they get us from home to work and from work to home. However, the automobile is facing a dilemma as it is at the intersection of two world problems – that of oil dependency and climate change due to green house gases. That's why we are doing what we can to make a difference by competing in the Automotive X PRIZE where our team will compete beside worldwide teams to create hyper-efficient vehicles. The AirShip's energy source is electricity which also produces electricity via a solar cell fabric which greatly miniaturizes the solar cells of the past so that the solar fabric serves as the outer skin of the vehicle."
[via: AirShip Technologies]