Have you ever been to an auto show or seen one covered on television? Some of the cars are simply remakes or improvements of models already on the market. While these transformations can be innovative and interesting, they are also realistic when it comes to vehicle use.
However, at auto shows, you might also see concept cars, which are vehicles that will probably never be built or used. For example, the Chevrolet FNR-X, an all-purpose sports concept car, was recently unveiled at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show. With rear-hinged doors that are controlled remotely, side skirts that can move up and down depending on the driving mode and the ability to switch between the car’s engine and electric motor, this car is still far from being ready for mass-production. If such vehicles are just a dream of what a car could be in the future, why do concept cars exist?
A Vision for the Future
When it comes to what will be on the roads in the future, automakers have a lot of designs, ideas and potential technologies that they can consider. Some of these are based on new science and new opportunities that have not yet been fully explored, so the makers are unsure what will and will not work.
Concept cars are not required to meet crash test requirements or any other qualifications. Without these confines, engineers and designers are able to let their minds wander to some of the most creative ideas. Although these concept cars may never actually be made into road-ready vehicles, the concepts behind them could lead to innovations in everyday car models.
You will notice that most automakers focus on new technologies when they create concept cars. For example, Toyota has developed a concept car it calls Concept-i. This vehicle utilizes an artificial intelligence assistant named Yui that will notice your fatigue and will engage you in conversation or ask you to turn on the radio to keep you alert.
These new innovations are impressive and perhaps not ready for everyday vehicles, but the technology is introduced, explored and developed through the use of concept cars.
The Road to Mass Production
Engineers and automakers often do not see these technological ideas as unrealistic at first. With the freedom to dive deep into the automotive possibilities, many designers start with a few ideas and a sketch that will eventually become the basis of a vehicle.
With the sketch in hand, a technical team takes these innovative ideas and builds them in a computer-generated design which will later be used for creating a prototype. Most cars are explored in a 3-D format, often including a fully animated example. This helps automakers learn which features are good and which need improvement.
Test models of these concept cars are extremely helpful to automakers because they demonstrate design flaws and technical problems that need to be addressed. It is often the prototype that shows automakers which aspects of the car are unrealistic. However, the best ideas are typically used in a new prototype for a more road-ready vehicle that will eventually be put into full production for the public. In order to stay ahead of the competition, automakers keep these early prototypes a secret prior to an official release.
Auto shows, like the 2017 Shanghai one, are a great opportunity for automakers to launch a new vehicle. Unusual concept cars gain media attention for the company, and the hype and enthusiasm for the new car may open doors to greater opportunities.
Intriguing concept cars often lead to useful feedback from the media, auto experts, and even the general public. This information can help an automaker decide which concepts to continue to develop and which to toss. If an idea seems to be working and is popular among potential buyers, it will help automakers decide in which areas to invest more money.
Although concept cars may seem like they are a waste of time because they will never be built for public use, these experiments in creativity and innovation are often the building blocks of new designs and upcoming models. By working with new technologies and unusual designs, concept cars are the future for many automakers. Look for new concept cars at many of the high-profile auto shows, and you will get a better idea about what the top automakers are currently cooking up in their design studios.