The love him or loathe him New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, waxed lyrical in a recent column about Shai Agassi’ Better Place project, and how he felt that Agassi could do for the auto industry, what Steve Jobs has for the music industry.
The idea of a complete ‘outsider’ operation shaking up an industry is always interesting/appealing, and as Apple fan boys, it reminded us of the hope that many other Apple fan boys have at some point dreamed of: that Apple would come up with an ‘iCar’.
The logic of Apple designing a car, obviously, is that it would look like nothing else on the road, be ultra cool and appear ‘simply designed’ – but above all, look gorgeous. Obviously, it would blow every other car currently on the market, completely out of the water… (and probably need its battery replacing within the first year, and a full reset every few days!).
Photoshop monkeys the world over have long render-speculated (often with heavy irony) about what this ‘iCar’ could look like, but there have been few serious efforts. Until now.
Designer Anthony Jannarelly, an MA graduate on Coventry University's Automotive Design course, has not only come up with a credible, appealing and thoughtfully designed Apple-branded car (he calls it iMo), but has re-imagined personal city transportation into the bag. His home page is an extraordinary reinterpretation of the Apple.com website. Check it out here.
iMo is a small, spherical bubble, about half as long as current european superminis, yet still capable of carrying up to three people. Looking ever so slightly like Jonathan Ive’s first generation G3 iMac with a set of wheels attached, it balances on its two wheels thanks to the same technology employed on the Segway Human Transporter. Its powered by a battery that plugs into the mains via a neat (and very Apple) module on the back. And the interior is infinitely re-configurable thanks to Nitinol ‘soft seat’ technology.
Yet, what few seem to have caught onto, is that he’s proposing a system which could actually replace the cars we currently use in crowded city centres, with iMo’s stacked up on street corners, working autonomously, and available for use as and when people wanted – in much the same way that Paris’s Velib’ bike system works.
You have to go and visit his site and watch some of the videos yourself to fully understand it, but it seems that Jannarelly has thought long and hard about the concept – implementing technologies that are available now (or will be very soon), simplifying construction and materials in a way that is inherent to Apple’s design philosophy, and which could significantly ‘green’ the process of making automobiles.
The only sad thing is the number of 'troll' and 'naysayer' comments the design has attracted when featured on other sites, such as Wired's Autopia. As an automotive designer, and future optimist myself, it’s really sad to see people completely fail to understand the point of concept cars, of future thinking, or indeed, even letting your mind run wild as a student…
Admittedly, Jannarelly’s idea would be hard to implement tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t makes sense. Technologically, it is (almost) possible. Physically, it’s an aesthetically stronger representation of a vehicle than MIT’s otherwise impressive – and almost production ready - ‘smart cities car’ project are talking about.
In a time when the automotive industry is – frankly – on its arse, we need positive, hopeful, and far-out thinking such as Jannarelly’s to inspire us, and move us forward in the world of automotive design and transportation. It’s easy to say that we already have decent transportation systems in cities – and “that these systems are called mass transit and bicycles” (one of the pithy comments on the wired blog) – but this is neither true, in many cities, nor entirely fair, as a counter argument.
Fundamentally, we will continue to need smart, different-thinking, personal motorised transportation in cities of the future. If, come 2024, it is anything like this – then bring it on. We can only hope that Apple's notoriously protective and heavy-handed team of lawyers see it the same way...
Posted by Joseph Simpson on 19th December 2008
All images by Anthony Jannarelly - Visit his website here. iMo micro site here - the videos, especially, are well worth a watch. Except G3 iMacs photo, by Cle0patra on flickr, under creative commons license.
Anthony asked us to explicitly state that this is not an official Apple product, nor was it produced in conjunction with anyone at Apple.