Designers Mike and Maaike, already famous for the odd-looking Google G1 phone, have taken a stab at reinventing the concept of the car. Gone are speed, danger and human drivers, in are comfort, efficiency... and slowness.
The team is calling this vehicle, dubbed the Autonomobile, "the end of driving." That appellation is crippled somewhat in that the car is just a concept, and technically not quite possible yet--but that doesn't detract from the boldness of the vehicle. Instead of focusing on needless speed--considering how often we potter around urban environments and sit in traffic jams--and incremental style variations on the basic car theme like every other vehicle, Mike and Maaike approached the idea with an architectural bent.
So, ATNMBL has an almost house-like shape, with panoramic windows and a wrap-around sofa as the passenger seat. The electronics are relegated to being compact floor-based black-box systems, the engine is four in-wheel electric motors and the batteries are augmented by solar cells on the roof. ATNMBL even drives itself, and instead of any kind of detailed control system, you simply have access to a panel that lets you program the destination and choose how the car will get you there: "Take me on the scenic route" being the most interesting. And that's what the designers insist the car is about--it's not about arriving at your destination, it's about the journey. Hence the panoramic windows, the lack of speed and the central information console/entertainment screen.
And wouldn't we all like to live in this future, where travel speeds are irrelevant and comfort and efficiency are foremost? Sadly I think Mike and Maaike would have to reinvent society in order to get their car to fit into our speed-obsessed time-is-money thinking, and I'm not convinced everyone would trust the HAL 9000-esque voice recognition auto-driver either. They'd have to install some seatbelts too. But as a fantasy, ATNMBL is a fabulous way to completely reconsider what cars could be all about.