Why Google's New Self-Driving Cars Could Change Auto Design As We Know It

May 28 2014, 11:04am CDT | by

Since almost the dawn of the automobile age, our cars have maintained the same basic shape. Of course, a lot of this form followed function: Combustion-engine cars have a whole lot of moving parts, and the carriages need somewhere to stow all this machinery. These days, that typically means an engine in the front, a trunk for storage in the back, and a whole lot of cogs and gears in between.

But once you ditch the combustion engine, this calculus changes. When you move to a fully electric vehicle, you have no need for the trappings of car design that have been present since the Model T days. Indeed, tear apart at Tesla, and you’ll find that many of its physical similarities to a traditional vehicle are a design choice. No engine means that some have space for a second trunk in the front. Other EVs can be so quiet, that they actually use speakers to simulate the sound of a traditional car—both as a matter of safety (you want to hear these things coming), and as a way to keep drivers from feeling like they are playing with alien machinery.

Which brings us to the new prototype self-driving cars that Google announced on Tuesday. Previous driverless vehicles were basically retrofitted production vehicles, outfitted with the necessary machinery to navigate city streets without human assistance. These new vehicles were designed and built from the ground up to operate without a driver. As a result, they were able to dispense with much of the hardware that is required for humans to interface with their vehicles. That means no steering wheels, no brake or acceleration pedals, and a compact design that looks as much like Disney World people-mover as a Camry.

I find this encouraging for one simple reason: Even as new technologies such as electric drivetrains could allow car makers excessive amounts of freedom in the overall design of their products, there has been remarkably little experimentation in this regard. Car forms still follow the functions of decades past. Auto makers seem terrified of turning off users who are afraid of something that looks and feels too different from the cars they are already familiar with.

If Google’s novel designs catch on, I’m hopeful that other car manufacturers will follow suit, and experiment with designs that look to the future, instead of being stuck in the past. By building carriages that exploit and maximize a car’s tech-infused guts, you give these new insides the chance to really shine.

#####
Seth Porges is a writer and co-creator of Cloth for iOS. For more fun,  follow Seth on Twitter at @sethporges, or subscribe to him on Facebook or Google+/>

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
Pandora Looks to Challenge Terrestrial Radio's Dominance in Cars
Pandora Media is one of the largest Internet radio providers in the U.S. with more than 75 million active users. While the company’s active user count has increased at a robust pace historically, it is likely to slow...
 
 
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
It’s January 2026. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gets out of his driverless car and triumphantly marches before the gathered press to introduce his prized new free agent. It’s a record-breaking contract—over...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

PM Modi wraps up Japan visit, flies home
Tokyo, Sep 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his five-day visit to Japan Wednesday and flew home. He is expected to arrive at New Delhi in the evening. During his visit, Japan promised to give $35...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Indian-born scientist wins prestigious US award
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) India-born scientist Dr Thomas John Colacot has won the American Chemical Society's ACS Award in Industrial Chemistry, one of the top honours in the field. Colacot, who studied at St Berchman'...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Beheading of second journalist shocks US; White House in crisis mode
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) As the beheading of a second American journalist by the Islamic State (IS) terror group sent shock waves through the nation, US President Barack Obama authorised 350 additional troops be...
Read more on Ad Balla
 
Suge Knight knows who shot him
Suge Knight says he knows who shot him at Chris Brown's party last month. The 49-year-old music producer, who was shot six times at the 'Loyal' hitmaker's pre-bash for the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) at 1Oak nightclub...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Claire Danes says motherhood is challenging
Claire Danes admits she sometimes resents being a mother. The 'Homeland' actress, who has a 21-month-old son, Cyrus, with husband Hugh Dancy, also says marriage is hard, but insists she is besotted with both of the men...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
China's yuan weakens
Beijing, Sep 3 (IANS) The value of the Chinese currency renminbi, or the yuan, retreated 13 basis points to 6.1697 against the US dollar in its central parity Wednesday, authorities said. In China's foreign exchange...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Miltos Yerolemou joins 'Star Wars Episode VII' cast
Los Angeles, Sep 3 (IANS) Miltos Yerolemou, who was seen as swordsman Syrio Forel in TV show "Game of Thrones", joins the cast of "Star Wars Episode VII". Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill return as Han...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
No link between Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, DRC : WHO
Geneva, Sep 3 (IANS) The World Health Organisation Tuesday said the outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is "a distinct and independent event", with no relationship to the epidemic in West Africa. Based on...
Read more on Business Balla
 
US warplanes drop leaflets on Iraqi city
Baghdad, Sep 3 (IANS/EFE) US warplanes Tuesday dropped thousands of leaflets on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, urging residents to keep clear of places occupied by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group that overran...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
US CDC calls for global response against Ebola
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS/EFE) The head of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tuesday warned of the risk that the Ebola outbreak could get out of control without a greater worldwide response. "This is...
Read more on Business Balla