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ATNMBL is purely consequent car design*

Thoughts on Apple Car, Part 145

Michael Schmidt
Jun 13 · 6 min read

*although I would change a few things, but I regress.

ATNMBL was design by Mike & Maaike, a San Francisco based progressive industrial design studio led by Maaike Evers and Mike Simonian. A decade ago, the two former Googlers went out to get people thinking differently about cars:

ATNMBL is a driverless concept vehicle we designed in 2009 to provoke discussions around new goals for the auto industry. The vehicle is envisioned for the year 2040 and represents an alternative approach to vehicle design and interaction.

We’re now a third of the way from 2009 to 2040, so let’s assess how much closer we came to their initial vision:

ATNMBL is short for Autonomobile, a title that merges Autonomy with the Automobile. Upon entering ATNMBL, you are presented with a simple question: “Where can I take you?” There is no steering wheel, brake pedal or driver’s seat. ATNMBL drives for you. Electric powered plus solar assist, with wrap-around seating for seven, ATNMBL offers living and/or working comfort, views, conversations, entertainment, and social connectedness.

Whereas the name is 100% concept and doesn’t work as a product, I believe in many of their assumptions around the design. The interaction with the car, the pure autonomous drive, and what it is used for.

But there are also minor issues, that may need to be solved differently in order to be really able to attract mainstream product adoption.

First, one of the most important interactions with the car will be entering and exiting. Just look at how hard this is in today’s cars. ATNMBL makes it look easy but really doesn’t show the actual motion of entering in their renderings – just this one, where you can see there’s only one defined spot to enter, and judging from this image, you’ll still need to bend over:

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Where they are spot-on, is that autonomous driving means the metrics of performance will be redefined:

Most cars can go 120 mph yet they are mostly used at moderate speeds and sitting in traffic. It’s time to look at performance in a new way. Dismissing the need for extreme MPH and acceleration as irrelevant, ATNMBL proposes a new standard of performance: one of time-saving, quality of life, and increased exploration. Freed from the monotony of driving, we can enjoy quality time while in transit: socializing, gaming, movies, business, videocalls, web surfing, sleeping or discovering new places with powerful voice controlled search and navigation.

Hallelujah!

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They go on:

Speed has been the driving factor for automotive design, styling, and engineering for a century. ATNMBL is designed from the inside out with elements influenced by architecture and domestic interior spaces without reference to automobiles of the past.

This is key to making any major difference in car design: Get rid of any old assumption you might have about it.

That also includes the tech:

The vehicle’s mechanical components are densely packed and simplified, providing dramatically more interior space in a vehicle that is shorter than most cars on the road today. Electric motors in each wheel provide all-wheel drive. Electric power is stored underneath the seating and floor with additional power provided by solar panels on the roof. Within a gridded pattern on the front and rear is an array of headlights, tail lights and sensors.

Let’s go back to those doors, remembering how important doors are to Jony Ive and Apple Design:

Passengers enter ATNMBL from the curb side through an electric glass sliding door into a standing-height entryway. Inside, the seating arrangement is a direct reference to the familiar living-room setting of a couch, side chair and low table. Riders are oriented towards each other and to the view outside through the large floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides.

Sounds great, but cramping into the other seats that are not in the standing-height area will not much different than squeezing yourself into the back row of even the biggest SUV today.

Sitting down to the position on the left in the photo below will more feel like backwards getting down on the toilet in a tiny apartment under the roof. See for yourself:

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I’m also not convinced by the need to have a display taking up space. The features described here are on your phone, tablet, watch, and soon glasses already.

Centrally oriented is a large flat display that features live trip information, maps, and entertainment. The display can slide up to reveal a bar behind. A new and comprehensive sense of control is introduced through voice recognition and a touch screen remote control (or one’s personal phone), offering riders a wide range of trip planning, ride sharing and performance settings that can be very detailed for those who want elaborate control or extremely simple for those who would rather just relax and enjoy the ride.

Let’s just keep the bar!

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I appreciate the hopeful words Maaike and Mike leave us with:

Driverless cars, once a fantasy requiring new roads and infrastructure, are now technologically possible. GPS, sophisticated sensors, and navigation databases will allow driverless vehicles to operate on the same roads we have today. It’s inevitable that technology will eventually allow cars to outperform their former drivers. This will drastically reduce the fatality rate and provide new experiences that will enrich our lives.

Just imagine the potential in efficiency, time management and social networks and the breakdown of age and disability discrimination.

– we will save hours each day by reclaiming our commute time

– accessibility for the young, the elderly and the disabled (no drivers licenses)

– no searching for parking (it will drop us off and park itself)

– our cars can work for us (think autonomous grocery pickups, deliveries and car maintenance)

– our cars can make money for us (ride share and car share).

– there will be less congestion with increased carpooling and car sharing

– and most importantly, far fewer fatalities and there will always be a designated driver.

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Finally, the describe a business opportunity that is often overlooked:

Existing ideas of private ownership will evolve. As organizations like Zip Car or GoLoco adapt to driverless cars, people will share/ rent cars regularly, an option that will prove irresistible when cars drive themselves to your location for pickup with just a phone-call. On a typical morning commute, for instance, once your ATNMBL has taken you to work, it can continue taking other people within your social network to work, thus making you money, rather than sitting idly in a parking lot. Groups of vehicles can travel in and out of swarms, each vehicle communicating with each other, with the traffic lights, with manually driven vehicles and with the infrastructure as a whole. They can group closely together to behave like a train, like a bus, or like individual cars, reaping the benefits of each of these modes, and solving the “last mile problem”.

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The ATNMBL project is meant to provoke thought and stir up new conversations about the car industry’s next destination. We are at an unprecedented crossroads: With industrial, financial, and environmental challenges come new opportunities and amazing technologies. We are open to your feedback, ideas, conversations, and new efforts in this area…

Here you go :-)

Thoughts on Apple Car

Conceptualizations on the future car, a.o.

Michael Schmidt

Written by

Director Consulting at Virtual Identity. I spent a decade on automotive brands in digital, and blog about brand strategy, #ubx and #AppleCar / #ProjectTitan.

Thoughts on Apple Car

Conceptualizations on the future car, a.o. shared by former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée, Apple/Google/Dropbox designer Ryhan Hassan, Lyft and Snap VC investor Alex Giannikoulis, Wristly founder Bernard Desarnauts, and CaminaLab/Drivania/Shotl founder Gerard Martret.

Michael Schmidt

Written by

Director Consulting at Virtual Identity. I spent a decade on automotive brands in digital, and blog about brand strategy, #ubx and #AppleCar / #ProjectTitan.

Thoughts on Apple Car

Conceptualizations on the future car, a.o. shared by former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée, Apple/Google/Dropbox designer Ryhan Hassan, Lyft and Snap VC investor Alex Giannikoulis, Wristly founder Bernard Desarnauts, and CaminaLab/Drivania/Shotl founder Gerard Martret.

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