Design competitions seek to address the issue of future mobility image

Usually automotive design studios around the world concentrate around the need to deliver upcoming products that can be sold and generate profits. But their deeper task is to also create and shape the future.

Today, design competitions around the world, such as the internationally acclaimed LA Design Challenge that is held in conjunction with the LA Auto Show or the annual Michelin Challenge Design, concentrate on one idea – the future of mobility. For example, Jason Wilbur, the chief of Honda’s advance design studio in the US says he grew from driving 23 miles to work in his first days with the Japanese company to today’s downtown LA skateboard ride. Discussions surrounding mobility quickly reach the issue that at least half of the world’s quickly growing population has no access to cars, buses, bicycles or taxis. “There’s a fundamental flaw in the thinking that mobility for all means everyone will own a car,” comments Wilbur further. For example, while deliveries of cars, buses and commercial trucks have grown in India, the country’s Tata Nano, a car presented back in 2008 with a price of just $1,600 was met with lackluster reception.

There’s a different perception by region as well – in the US around 850 personally-owned cars exist for every 1,000 persons, while in China that ratio goes down to just 85 per 1,000 even as the sales there greatly outpace those in second-placed US. “As the world moves toward areas that don’t have the same needs we do, we need to create something different,” comments Ben Ebel, head of the annual Michelin Challenge Design. The competition seeks to find and award the most futuristic automotive designs and solutions each year.