Credit: Unsplash, 2021

5 AV designs to trigger your imagination

Technology and Business

Alice Salter

Alice Salter



In this article, we take a closer look at some of the most exciting driverless concepts, and ask:

  • What could our driverless future look like?
  • How will AVs change our lives beyond making travel easier?
  • Will innovation be the key to acceptance?


What does the term ‘driverless car’ first bring to mind? For many of us, it’s something sleek, even futuristic, with plenty of adaptable space for all the work, entertainment and relaxing we’ve been promised we can do inside. For some, the term might inspire more shared travel. Your first thoughts might be for updated public transport, like EasyMile’s self-driving bus or the Cruise Origin taxi. Few, however, would immediately think of the kind of vehicles which feature in this article.


Self-driving vehicles, after all, don’t have to work within the same limitations as more traditional transport. They have more scope for innovation. With the development of AVs, the way we travel, the shape of our lives, our cities and more will undoubtedly change too.


We’ve been thinking about that driverless future, considering how our lives, not just our vehicles, will change, since all the way back in 2017 at Frankfurt’s International Motor Show. Now, we’re seeing more and more of the new world AVs might open up. These are just a few of the most exciting concepts out there.

Play on the move.


Japanese design firm, Nendo, have reimagined AVs as not just a means of travel, but a means of play. Their collection of six mobile, autonomous machines together create a single traveling playground which incorporates all the basic motions – climb, spin, swing, slide, rest and jump – which we can observe in most static play areas around the world.


The key difference here is, the entire playground can be moved from location to location or even summoned via an app. Plus, the monochrome machines are incredibly interactive. Not only do they travel autonomously and include functionality for play, they have distinct characters and blinking LED ‘eyes’. Perhaps this shows how, as driverless become more common, AVs might become real ‘characters’ in our lives from an early age.

Credit: Dezeen, 2020

Safety first.


Taking inspiration from new needs arising during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, NemBot, a quarantined cabin on autonomous wheels, was designed as pandemic-proof transport. Though its creators designed the single person-sized AV for non-emergency medical transportation, they’re sure there are applications beyond the recent pandemic. Due to its small size, the AV is able to navigate tight space and meets important medical safety standards. Such transport, which can create a travelling, disinfected environment, may be central to how the future of medicine, and medical treatment, evolves from here.




More than road travel.


Not all AVs, as we know from our dive into the world of autonomous shipping, are limited to the road. One fascinating example, planned to launch in Amsterdam, operates from the water, acting as both a bridge and ferry. Developed at MIT, the ‘RoundAround’ project aims to bring cities into closer contact with natural features like rivers using AVs in place of static bridges. The proposed robot boat bridges push the boundaries of technology and design and are endlessly adaptable. In this way, users become more in control of routes through their cities, while the self-driving boats ensure travel is just as, if not more, convenient than it has ever been.


Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2021

Service to go.


Though personal travel might be our first concern when it comes to self-driving tech, the fact that public transport, logistics and even the military are finding ways to apply the tech suggests that, whatever we use traditional vehicles for right now, in the future AVs may replace them. Italian architect, Carlo Ratti’s design for a ‘robot’ bar making cocktails to order perfectly highlights this trend.


We’re all used to pop-up bars serving from the side of a van, but this one is special. Two mechanical arms shake, stir and serve your drink, while the self-driving platform takes the setup from location to location. Echoing our ‘on-demand’ culture, the concept plays on our desire for convenience above all else. After all, if the bar could come to you that easily, wouldn’t you use it?




Endless options.


It’s difficult to imagine the full extent of how AVs might change our lives, but over at Space10, they’ve had a good go, designing a whole host of adaptable vehicles for everything from virtual reality gaming to a farm on wheels. The concepts paint a picture of a world where AVs are fully integrated into our lives.


Particularly inventive are the farm on wheels which aims to tackle the modern problem of ‘fresh food deserts’. It would do this by bringing fresh, even still in the ground, produce to different areas. The hotel on wheels also solves a modern problem, using clean energy to reduce emissions and providing a comfortable ‘hotel’ space to offer real rest while travelling. The limits of what AVs can be adapted to do, it seems, are endless.


We might first aim for self-driving road vehicles, and we know these are still a way off, but applying a little imagination reveals just how significant the development of driverless will be. Not just for tech enthusiasts, but for everyone. Our world will adapt to the tech and by thinking more widely about how it might be applied, we open up new opportunities for work, play and more. Surely that makes the world of driverless more universally appealing.




What do you think? Which of these ideas are you most eager to see come to life? How would you use driverless tech imaginatively? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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