A new concept aims to create an “intense” ownership experience by using emerging technologies to strengthen the emotional bond between man and machine.
Bob Romkes, a designer at Britain’s Royal College of Art, penned the Equilibrium concept as a luxury car for the future. In an era when customization equals personalization, Romkes sees a chance for an emotional connection with a vehicle that’s mass-produced.
“I wanted to create an emotional connection with the vehicle without using customization,” Romkes told Autopia. “So that even though it will be mass produced and your car can look the same as your neighbor’s car, you still feel strongly connected with yours.”
To achieve a strong attachment between car and driver, Romkes used sensors to connect with and respond to the driver’s heartbeat from the moment he or she approaches the car in the parking lot. On initial approach, the car’s interior lights begin to glow and the door opens slightly to invite the driver to step inside.
“The vehicle needs you to operate, by using your heartbeat as the driving source,” Romkes told Autopia. A database of user inputs help the car to nurture the relationship. “Over time it studies your driving characteristics and adapts itself to make the experience even more smooth and natural.”
The glowing, “breathing” light on Apple laptops and the startup sequence of Romkes’ Sony VAIO laptop were both subtle rituals that he observed as inspiration for the Equilibrium. “It is amazing how such small elements can bring an extra dimension to a product,” he told Autopia. “It moves the product from static to dynamic and it brings a human factor as well. It is very subtle and I think most people experience this unconsciously.”
Far from a kinder, gentler Christine, the Equilibrium is a technical tour de force that mimics animate objects using technology from the not-so-distant future. Romkes pointed out the paradox that so many would-be supercar owners face: at the time in your life when one has the means to buy a dream car, one is also constrained by the priorities of family and functionality.
With the Equilibrium, “it is possible to have best of both worlds: a spacious interior and still an aerodynamic and relatively compact exterior. I decided to emphasize these two points by making a ‘one volume’ architecture without a shoulder-line and with covered wheels.”
Floating seats allow for easy customization of the car’s interior and seats that absorb impact. It is with “Rubber Metal,” a flexible mixture of rubber and glass made through nanotechnology, that the wheels can simultaneously be covered and connected with the steering mechanism.
“This made me think of an external steering mechanism, where the exterior ‘skin’ can function as ‘artificial muscle structure’ and pull the wheels from the center around their axes,” Romkes told Autopia. “This way, the body can be placed close to the wheels. Because the material is flexible and attached to the wheels it can function as an external suspension system as well.”
Images: Bob Romkes. The Equilibrium concept uses technologies from the near future to forge a connection between car and owner.