Coventry University held a ‘Future of Transport Design Debate’ at their Simulation Centre on the Coventry University Technology Park. This annual debate was taking a light-hearted but serious look at issues which will influence transport design in the future.
The debate was chaired by Steve Cropley, Editor in Chief of Autocar at Haymarket Media Group, with an expert panel of Andrew Everett, Chief Strategy Officer at the Transport Systems Catapult, David Hilton, Senior Design Director at NextEV, Dr Cyriel Diels, Human Factors Researcher at Coventry University and Dr George Gillespie OBE, CEO of Horiba MIRA.
This year the event concentrated on electric and autonomous vehicles, with the need for greater integration requiring the topics to touch on areas such as rail and freight. A huge subject to try and cover, but the discussion was moved along expertly by Steve Copley, through the death of ‘Car Culture’ as we know it, the car’s current status likened to that of the horse in the early 1900s and how do Local Authorities influence the debate?.
The audience came from engineering and design consultancies, OEM’s, research institutions and govermental departments and although everyone could see both opportunities and challenges through the speed of development of current technology, the over whelming feeling for the future was one of excitement in finding and designing solutions.
The event also gave attendees the chance to view ‘virtually’ The National Transport Design Centre (NTDC) whose construction has already started on Coventry University’s Technology Park. The centre is being funded through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the government’s multimillion pound Local Growth Deal, with an initial £7 million contribution.
State-of-the-art features of the NTDC, which forms a key facility for the University’s existing Centre for Mobility and Transport, include:
• a 6m interactive power wall which allows users to explore detailed design and engineering concepts in virtual reality;
• advanced clay milling facilities for creating physical models of vehicles;
• a projection mapping system which can cast digital images onto 3D objects below, helping designers to assess how multiple options would appear on full-scale models.
The centre is set to address many of the Automotive Council report’s recommendations, with key areas of focus including undergraduate and postgraduate education in transport design, research projects in collaboration with industry, and support for the UK’s high-value manufacturing sector and its supply chain to improve design capability.
Drive developed an App for car manufacturer MG Motor UK to showcase its latest SUV, the MG GS using augmented virtual reality (AVR) technology. Drive used its experience in this field to create an AVR experience using Virtual headsets, to allow MG to give potential customers the first in-depth look at the new car before its official ‘real life’ launch.
Matthew Cheyne, Head of Sales and Marketing for MG, said: “We are really excited about using augmented reality to bring the GS to life. The kit we’re using is great and really allows you to explore the GS. You can open doors, fold down seats, open the boot and walk around it. When you’ve got the headset on, it recognises where you’re moving and updates the image in front of you.”
MG Motor UK also took the virtual experience to Brands Hatch Paddock during the British Touring Car Championship race weekend.
Augmented reality is a way of superimposing virtual (computer generated) content like the MG GS into everyday surroundings.
This is achieved with any electronic device that has a screen and a camera. The camera takes a photo or video and displays that on the screen while superimposing computer imagery. The cg car can be adjusted to your personal colour choice, allowing you to see how the new car you want to buy looks on your driveway.
Virtual reality is a way of submerging you into a virtual environment, using a headset. The headset has two screens, one for each eye which allows you to then see with depth or in cinema terms; 3D. The head set monitors which way you are looking and updates the scene in front of you. This allows you to move around in the environment and see it from all angles. For instance, you might find yourself walking around the virtual surface of the moon, a virtual showroom with virtual cars or a virtual version of the house you have just purchased which is still being built.
Using a combination of the two technologies as MG did, it’s possible to put virtual objects in your real environment, allowing you to walk around and interact with them. At present, to do this it’s common to use an object that the application instantly recognises. This is called a marker and it positions the virtual object where you want it (and vary the size).
For more information on creating such an Augmented Virtual Reality experience please get in touch.
Images courtesy of MGmotor FB
Drive has provided consultancy services to many low volume vehicle manufacturers and during that time has built up an understanding of the challenges that these businesses face in developing and establishing a successful vehicle in the market.
Niche vehicles have always provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to build successful businesses but now more than ever they are providing a solution to specific transportation problems. This is leading to opportunities for OEMs to use niche vehicles to expand the brand into new markets, become leaders by redefining a market or exploiting new technologies.
Low volume vehicles provide unique challenges in the product offering, manufacturing constraints and the commercial demands. Drive have been involved in numerous programmes and have built up experience of the various approaches to the business proposal, from designers wishing to produce their concept, technology led business opportunities and brand experience products. Spectre Cars, Delta Motorsport, Magna Styer, Zenos Cars, Caterham Cars and Lightning Car Company have all turned to Drive for support in delivering their projects.
Whilst the funding for niche vehicle projects is provided from varying sources depending on the circumstances, the necessary underlying business case has to be rigorously tested and proved just the same, before investing of valuable time, resources and money. Drive’s in depth experience can help build the background to the project, give crucial investor confidence in the participating parties and provide experience and guidance throughout project timeline.
Through the development and refinement of the design our experienced team maintain the initial design intent whilst answering the engineering and economic challenges posed by these unique projects.
Drive’s understanding of the difficulties facing niche vehicle manufacturers (NVMs) trying to establish a company or product make them ideal partners to be involved in the development of a robust product concept and commercial strategy, whilst helping identify design and manufacturing efficiencies through collaboration with strategic partners.
Not every venture can be the success that everyone is looking for but minimising the risk by being fully aware of the undertaking at the start, with suitable gateways mapped out so that owners and investors can make informed decisions before embarking on the next phase, help to increase the chances of a sustainable business.
The missing piece to the Caterham / Renault joint venture puzzle has been revealed in September’s issue of Top Gear magazine. For Drive it brings a mixture of emotions… excitement seeing it again and frustration that it will probably never go into production.
So where did it start for us at Drive? It goes back 5 years to an initial meeting with Caterham in Hethel, Norwich. The original project became a distant memory as aspirations changed with the introduction of a partner in major manufacturer Renault, a completely new package and advanced aluminium construction. As the engineering package was developed at Caterham and Renault bases, Drive’s design team were seconded to work at the Renault R&D headquarters in Guyancourt, Paris, forming an important conduit for the Anglo-French alliance.
Arriving at Renault, Drive’s close team of designers and digital modellers with Caterham’s studio engineers, were allocated space within the Alpine facet of the complex, an impressively large studio with several clay plates. It was one of the most exciting environments to work in, with the presence of some of the Renault concept greats dotted around the place; the Alpine A110-50, DeZir, and Twingo to name a few.
Sharing the studio space, facing each other were the C120 and AS1 clay models, two cars showing great potential with their two respective design teams working on them. If I could sum up the entire studio atmosphere, including the Alpine team, it would be passion. Passion was what drove these concepts forward.
The Drive design team lived, breathed and dreamt C120, flying out to France in the early hours of Monday morning and returning on a Friday evening for 6 consecutive months. Some weeks were tiring, stressful and occasionally deflating, with our attempts at the French language appreciated, even if laughed at by the canteen staff. Our commitment, comradery and passion pulled us through every time, to be part of history, taking part in something that would bring a British sports car brand into a new era. The sad demise of the joint venture was a bad dream. For a long time we couldn’t believe that with all the effort everyone put into the project and with it so close to being realised, there would be no exciting moment of that first drive.
So enough about our emotions….what of the car itself?
Biased I may be, but I believe there is no doubt that this is a great looking car, with fantastic proportions and pure surfacing. So how is it a Caterham? What defines the character of a Caterham? At Drive we aren’t just a hired arm that draws cars, we extract and develop core brand DNA, establishing a clear aesthetic direction that our clients understand and can incorporate in their brand’s future.
Establishing this new brand aesthetic was no easy task. Caterham was clearly defined by the Seven, a car with a cult following and essentially unchanged from the original design. First of all the C120 was to be a completely new package, and one that a Caterham has never used before – a mid-mounted engine. This already moved the vehicle far away from the instantly recognisable visual cues of a Caterham 7 (long bonnet, front engine), so we knew we would have to evoke that Caterham feeling in other ways. We were also aware that the C120 was to be an everyday car, as well as a weekend toy, aimed at taking on the more premium market of Porsche, Audi and BMW. With this in mind the language the car spoke was critical, this was to be the line in the sand for Caterham; a fresh modern interpretation of a historic brand.
The car is designed as a complete entity from front to back, a holistic approach. Starting with the overall proportion, it is lithe, nimble and carries no excess weight whilst remaining visually planted in stance. The front rakes back from the iconic Caterham nose to a short rear overhang. The arch lines communicate some of the iconic Caterham 7 design gestures, the combination of the long diving front agile arch line and the rear pert, perfectly poised line evokes the similar feeling you get from looking at a 7. It looks alive, on its toes and ready to be driven.
The car also feels like a complete entity, it is not a case of projecting design features on the side rear and front which can often make cars look disjointed, features and graphics encompass the wheels, giving it visual strength and a sense of purity, a holistic approach.
The front displays an approachable face, not too aggressive, but a well-balanced and open eyed character that evokes the same feelings you get from the 7. It’s serious enough not to be taken lightly. Everything works together to deliver maximum performance whist interpreting the Caterham design philosophy for the 21st century. Everything is there for a reason too, from the central grill, splitter and side intakes, designed for function hinting at influences from Caterham motorsport, such as their former Formula 1 division.
Following down the side of the car, the iconic side exhaust and graphics that you commonly see on most 7s is interpreted by a graphic that follows all the way from the central nose through to the side intakes and onto the body side. The surfaces and body side is all about losing as much visual weight as possible, with surfaces sculpted away whilst retaining a sense of beauty and tension. Moving towards the rear the stance of the car is exaggerated to show the power moving through the rear axle, with large arch blisters further enhancing this visual width.
The rear completes the strength of the car, hinting at the DNA of the 7 in a very modern and crisp way. Lamp positions are high as is the integrated spoiler, not only gain better performance but to give the car a sense of agility. Simple, clean lines make up the rear to further emphasise as much visual width as possible. Heat exits at the base of the rear screen and under the rear floating lamps, were all necessary to manage heat for the mid-engine package. Moving lower down, the number plate is located within the diffuser trim allowing the upper surfaces to be as clean as possible and retain some of that Caterham 7 box like rear end feeling.
Working with the Alpine team was a pleasure, we had our moments of course, whilst fighting for certain design features and gestures that related to each of the cars providing much discussion and debate! For a program that relied heavily upon financial necessities of sharing the complete running platform and common parts such as lamps, the result is two concepts that side by side have a totally different attitude, stance and feeling. Quite an achievement.
Sadly what you are seeing here is only a point in time and is not the finished article, I can tell you… it only got better! When you see those fantastic shots of the Alpine darting around the Alps or parked in the Italian sunshine at Villa d’Este in Lake Como….. imagine the Caterham C120 hammering through the roads of Norfolk or poised in the car park at the Linton Travel Tavern!
I could probably carry on talking about this car, the design and just how special we feel it is, for an eternity. It was a landmark project for Caterham, Drive and our team; something none of us will forget and I only wish you could see on the road.
Images courtesy of Caterham Cars
In this months Top Gear magazine it is great to see Caterham Cars CEO Graham McDonald, showing off the C120 concept design that drive developed. This was destined to be the sister car to the future Alpine, had the Caterham / Renault joint venture lived on. A project that everyone at Drive is very proud to have been part of. For the full story you’ll need to get the magazine!