Evolution not revolution is stifling vehicle design

Regarding your feature ’The body electric’ (DW 21 January) and the opportunities offered automotive designers by electric vehicles, in theory the opportunity is indeed a great one and we would hope to see a new automotive aesthetic emerging.

The reality, however, is quite different.

Cars will continue to look like cars, as long as people continue to look like people, the laws of physics remain the same, and increasingly prescriptive EU safety legislation continues to spew forth from Brussels.

Passengers need to be accommodated in comfort, drivers need to see out clearly, wheels need to remain in what is their optimum position for comfort, handling and roadholding, and there needs to be a strong crumple zone at the front of the car (engine and engine compartment make an excellent shock absorber).

The real challenge for automotive designers is not the creation of radical new shapes (at least not until computer-controlled, autonomous vehicles become the norm), but rather the development of a new design language for a vehicle’s details, where these elements, perhaps dynamically, communicate the technology and sophistication within.

The headlights of Audi’s E-tron concept are a good example, where LED technology has freed the designer from the restraints of bulbs and mirrors. The headlights do, however, remain in the same (optimum) position on the vehicle body.

The challenge for automotive interior designers is greater than that facing their exterior counterparts.

Introducing radically different controls to a mass market used to wheels and pedals would be a brave move indeed. I fear that the adjustment time and resulting accidents would be too great a price to pay.

The car’s ubiquity is its own worst enemy, shackling it forever with evolution rather than revolution.

Andi Rusyn, Owner, Space and Room, by e-mail

Latest articles