Art Center recently staged its annual Spring Senior Degree Show and CDN was there to review the work of the graduating students and talk with the faculty and administration. We were fortunate enough to speak at length with Stewart Reed, chair of the Transportation Design Department, and Geoff Wardle, director of the graduate Transportation Design program about the Pasadena, California-based course.
The school has recently added a graduate program to the undergraduate transportation design program. As Reed explained, the undergraduate program is enhancing the curriculum that brought it such renown and also extending its brand with a graduate program. Wardle characterizes this as "elevating the view to thirty thousand feet" and asks big questions about mobility in the twenty-first century - whether that involves automobiles, trains, airplanes or even spaceships. Transit systems of various types and environmental design are also explored as graduate students work to solve problems of mobility of the future.
David Day Lee
Lee's thesis involves what he terms "the innovation in the hands of many". He envisions the car industry evolving from making products to creating platforms for participatory and collaborative innovation, in the way Airbnb is transforming the idea of hotels, or Uber and Zcar are transforming the idea of car ownership and mobility, or the way apps can customize and personalize a smartphone or tablet. Among the concepts he displayed was the CUVE, an eight passenger bus/taxi hybrid that can run a predetermined route or travel to individual destinations- a hyperlocal transit system of crowdsourced design. Also displayed was the "Maker Series", a vehicle development platform designed for a "grassroots" vehicle design. Individual vehicles would be produced with rapid prototyping technologies.
BMW i Brand Development
One of the more visionary projects of the show, this BMW sponsored project looks at the future of the 'i' sub-brand. Lee started with the basic question: How can the brand retain its leadership in design and technology as its pioneering elements are adopted by others in the industry? Lee's answer is actually five - a representative vehicle from five selected decades ahead, stretching out over the next century. The iQ, a model of which was displayed, extends the brand's presence in a new way, as a cabin that levitates over and travels along with a propulsion base unit that is leased, while the pod is retained by the owner. Individual cabins can be stored in stackable parking structures or with the owner. Even further into the future, Lee's iS.E.E.D. projects the brand beyond automobiles and into the realm of private space travel.
Audi LeMans Racer 'Aeromorph'
With his Audi sponsored project, Eric Kim proposes an advanced Le Mans racer aimed at maintaining the brand's dominance at the fabled French racetrack. Projected for the year 2030, this advanced racer uses compressed air propulsion, with ultralight materials that morph and contort the shape of the vehicle according to its movement in turns or along straights. Advanced aerodynamics and a low silhouette ensure a slippery form. Part catamaran and part R18, would this be the eco-racer that is the first to hit 500kph down the Mulsanne Straight? We certainly wouldn't bet against it.