A different concept in vehicle design

A concept car project launched this month is using public opinion to provide an insight into how people believe cars should look in 10 years’ time.

SPRINTCar (Short Production Run Innovative Technology Car) is in the first of three steps, the consultation phase.

This will involve gathering views from the public and technical experts on the shape, architecture and function of future vehicles through an online questionnaire. The consultation will run for six months, funded by a grant from the EPSRC. During phase two of the project the team will design the car, while in phase three the vehicle will be built.

SPRINTCar consists of 12 partners, including Oxford and Cranfield universities and the DTI-backed Faraday Advance. It aims to allow UK universities and industry to collaborate without the constraints likely from the involvement of a major vehicle manufacturer.

According to Dr Rebecca Lingwood, project leader and aerospace and automotive programme manager at Oxford University’s Begbroke Science Park, initial feedback shows the most popular classes of vehicle so far are the hatchback and the MPV.

‘The aim is to carry out a technological evaluation and consultation to get the vehicle specification. We would like more responses from women as they represent less than 10 per cent of the submissions so far,’ she said.

Semi-automated management systems have proved more popular than fully automated ones, possibly because people lack confidence in the latter, she added. Braking and steering have also emerged as something drivers would like to retain control over.

Priority requests include flexibility, possibly in the form of a modular vehicle that could be upgraded, as well as safety and fuel economy.

SPRINTCar’s developers will also look at similar projects for inspiration. For instance, MIT in the US is seeking public input to design a city car of the future. Possible features include omnidirectional steering that allows wheels to turn 90 degrees when parking.

GM will build the final design as a concept car in 2006.