Autonomous cars don't have to be mobile appliances. They could turn into kite-surfing skateboards, transform from a two seater into a pair of motorcycles, or – what the hell? – strap yourself to the roof in a flying squirrel outfit.
All these proposals and more were submitted for this year's Michelin Design Challenge, an annual showcase of up-and-coming industrial artists tasked with envisioning the future of transportation.
This year's theme was "Drive Your Passion", where each designer had to pick an iconic road – from Italy's Stelvio Pass to the Rubicon Trail – and then create a purpose-built vehicle to tackle it. The designs ranged from the bizarre to the really bizarre to something that could only come out of a Photoshop/RedBull/psilocybin bender.
Fifteen top designs made the cut and these are the three winners, along with our favorite bat-shit ideas of the bunch.
Designers: Youngjai Jun and Gunyoung Yoon
The two South Korean designers decided on the Stelvio Pass because of its ample wind, which the Viento uses as part of its propulsion system. In one mode, the driver sits inside like a kayak, but when they're looking for to get exxxxtreme, they can pop into sailing mode.
Designers: Aurélien Deleuze, Pierre-Hugues Vallin, and Robinson Mancaux
Using the Rubicon Trail as the setting, the this trio of French design students came up with the S.I.C., and the only thing more unfortunate than its name is what it stands for: "Slow Is Cool". It's basically a fully-automated rover for taking in nature with magically transforming tires, four-wheel steering, and a pair of "magnetic engines".
Designer: Cristian Polanco
Polanco likes to think of his Bugatti Liriom as "back to basics" approach, fusing '30s style with F1 tech, including an electric drivetrain. It's easily the most feasible of the bunch, assuming the Stelvio Pass has ample charging stations.
Designer: Nicholas Dunderdale
The only thing better than bombing down California's Highway 1 in a roadster is doing it on a sport bike, so UK designer Nicholas Dunderdale combined both into the Rainmaster. By using a pair of skateboard chassis with the batteries and electronics stored in the side panels, the Rainmaster can go from open-top two-seater to a pair of motorcycles, realizing Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach's dream when the two engineers ventured into the hills of Bavaria on a peyote-fueled vision quest.
Designer: Siriphong Roongruengvuthikul
Combining as many daft ideas into one vehicle has always been a theme of the Design Challenge, and this Thailand expat takes it to its illogical extreme with a combination land speeder, motorcycle, and autonomously driven driving instructor. "This invisible AI is like an old wise man who know [sic] when and what to tell you what to do, how to train you and make you trust yourself, when to be visible and invisible, watching over you and never let an accident happen." So… yeah.
Designer: Jihwan Jung
Envisioned as a way for people to experience (horizontal?) skydiving without jumping out of a perfectly good plane, the AirDiv actually sounds pretty awesome. It packs an automatic driving system with 4 driving modes and 3 types of tires to suit the environment the human wind sock is blasting through.
Find your own favorites here.