In this post I talk about making cars themselves better. In future posts I'll talk more about making things better by getting rid of cars.
Driving is very depressing to me for a bunch of reasons, one of which is the blandness of car designs and colors. What we’ve seen is a mass standardization of car body shapes and colors, because it’s cheaper and more efficient for car manufacturers to provide fewer and more similar choices, and because the designs we’ve settled on are the safest in terms of crash testing. Boring, though. The exceedingly high percentage of white cars reminds me of a bleached coral reef. Where’s the individuality in all of this, I thought cars were supposed to be about freedom and choice!
I think this situation will improve. I’m gonna share some predictions about automobiles, though I also want to write about how we should ditch our cars 90% of the time anyways. The remaining 10% of the time, we should have cars that are actually cool, not the bland East-Berlin-before-the-wall-came-down blasé shape, toxin spewing, expensive to maintain pieces of garbage.
Tesla builds all of its cars on top of a base chassis which contains all the batteries, motors, cooling system, suspension, and drive electronics needed to make the car go. The frame and body are built on top of this skateboard. The Model 3 and the Model Y share the same skateboard. This is great for manufacturing efficiency, and other car makers are starting to pick up the same design. Recently, we saw that Ford is licensing VW’s skateboard design to build Ford-style cars without having to fabricate the basic drive components.
As this tech proliferates, I expect we see increased modularity in car manufacturing. Smaller companies will appear, who can license off the shelf skateboards and components from larger players, and create new and more interesting vehicle designs on top of the standard platform.
Combined with robotic manufacturing and potentially metal 3d printing, you can imagine a future where a car ‘body shop’ is able to custom build you an entire car with some off the shelf base and power characteristics and a totally customizable look and chassis built on top.
With new overspray-eliminating paint robots, we’ll see custom paint jobs, selected by excited buyers using online configurator tools that actually give you options rather than what we have now.
Anyways, I got into an argument with a friend about whether or not any of this is going to happen over the next 20 years, so I wanted to put some of it in writing so I can either be right or wrong at some point. I don’t really have a horse (car?) in this game, but I do value aesthetics and I think we’re dropping the ball on beauty in a bunch of different ways.