Bionic Shell

June 2017Caspar Kirsch, Patrick Lenz, Sebastian Wloch
What if cars would be more than a choice of transport, but rather truly autonomous entities, acting as social companions...

In which way will autonomous vehicles accompany our lives in 2050? If you believe in the studies of some automakers, we will move in a cosmos of moving soapboxes. Autonomy as additional equipment. However, the very possibilities of autonomous driving offer enormous potential for thinking about mobility in a completely new context. In times of urbanization and mechanization, the desire for naturalness arises.

Natural Interaction

The conception of cars as "companions" and the popularity of conversational interfaces are clear examples. However, completely natural interaction can only take place where nature and technology merge and anonymity of a technical object is overcome. It's not just about decorative, symbolic or metaphorical aspects. Also the specific behavior of the vehicles is of elementary importance. Do they support us in our social behavior? Are they developing their own lives, can they grow, shrink, divide or even rot?

The development of low-emission drives and the use of sustainable production chains are already trying to minimize the negative environmental impact. But what if the design approach wouldn’t just focus on dealing with the environment, but integrate it? The imitation of nature in design is an old phenomenon. Integration is the next step in this evolution. So the car is no longer a status object.

It is the status itself.

Let's imagine the appearance.

The result of this explorative project is not to be seen as a design proposal, but rather as a stimulus for a possible alternative to the development of autonomous vehicles driven by technology. In this scenario, the vehicle is in the foreground as an independent and socially active being that enables us to get into social and emotional contact with it.

Instead of an initially user-centered approach, in which we identified various stakeholders and situations and tried to conceptually sketch a transformable vehicle, we took a more radical approach. In the foreground of this was the study of the emotional attitude towards such a social vehicle. In order to be able to produce tangible images, we dealt with organic structures, bodies and surfaces.

In what context does it appear?

In addition to the visual design, we focused heavily on the development of new scenarios: Do the vehicles react to their environment as a result of the situation? Is it visible, whether they are in a hurry, whether they are "relaxing" or how their inmates are? Is there a social fleet behavior of autonomous vehicles? Will they e.g. join together to a swarm, to share energy charges or take advantage of other benefits?

Exhibition & Reactions

The visual demos were modeled in many iterations as three-dimensional objects in Cinema4D. They were exhibited as high-resolution posters at the Werkschau - the annual exhibition of student work at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences.

The reactions ranged from fascination to amazement, but were in any case emotional. In discussions, it became clear that the social relationship with an autonomous vehicle indeed plays an important role in their successful further development.

The Project was created in close collaboration with Caspar Kirsch and Patrick Lenz