The rise of self-driving technology and shared ownership of electric vehicles will radically change the design of cars in the coming years, a leading carmaker has said.
Mate Rimac, the 31-year-old visionary behind Croatia-based supercar company Rimac Automobili, specializes in the production of all-electric hypercars. His latest creation, the C-Two, will launch next year with the ability to jet from zero to 60 miles per hour in under two seconds.
Rimac is on the bleeding-edge of electric car technology and is well aware the industry is changing rapidly.
It is, of course, largely thanks to the rise in a slew of cutting-edge features: autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI), over-the-air updates, new batteries and the use of a real-time data feedback loop.
But in an interview with Newsweek, the inventor indicated the world is not going to suddenly resemble sci-fi movies like Blade Runner, with its floating transports and vehicles taking to the skies. Yet while not as exciting, cars as we know them still evolve.
“Vehicle design is definitely going to change completely,” Rimac said, pitching his vision of the near future, which included cars able to zip along roads without humans behind the wheel.
“When you don’t have ownership of the car and you don’t have operation of the car, you don’t have a person driving the car, it’s going to look completely different,” he said. “Nobody really knows what it will be like. Some people are working on things that look like little trains on rubber wheels, if that’s the right direction I am not really sure. I have some ideas of my own which I won’t share now.”
There is no real consensus on how existing road infrastructure will be impacted by the introduction of tech-enhanced vehicles. Some entrepreneurs, such as Tesla’s co-founder Elon Musk, are already pouring significant amounts of money into the creation of underground tunnelling systems that can as an alternative means of sustainable transport. Rimac voices a more practical solution.
“I think the big changes never happen in the way you see it in sci-fi movies where all of a sudden you have some revolutionary floating buildings or flying cars,” he told Newsweek.
“There will be different solutions to problems but I think we need to utilize what we have. If you look at roads today, you have traffic jams. When you sit in a traffic jam it looks like there are cars everywhere around you. But from above, most of the roads are empty.
“[Roads] are not utilized in the right way because people can’t communicate with a thousand other people at the same time. When you have an autonomous car, it will know exactly where every car is, where it’s going and what it wants to do so you can utilize the existing infrastructure so much better. That is much cheaper than building new infrastructure. At the moment, the infrastructure does need to change, but once we have cars that can speak to each other and be part of a central nervous system, that [will] utilize what we have much better, and be much safer.”
Rimac suggested the current model of car ownership is “insane” because most vehicles are not being most of the time.
The future, he posited, will feature shared fleets of vehicles, resembling Uber, but instead of a driver you may or may not want to talk to, the journey will be helmed by the machine.
He said: “The average car is used about 3 percent of the time. It’s sitting around doing nothing for 97 percent of the time which is totally insane. It’s such a waste of resources.”
“Not just for the car but also for the real estate, where you keep the car,” Rimac added. “When your car is being shared by many people and being operated by a fleet operator, let’s say Uber, it’s being used 60-70 percent of the time. When you don’t have a driver who gets tired but an autonomous car, just imagine how different the car needs to be because of that. Being used 3 percent of the time or 70 percent of the time, that’s a huge difference.”
So maybe not Blade Runner, but perhaps closer to Demolition Man. Even if the physical design no longer calls for traditional steering wheels or acceleration pedals, Rimac is certain cars will be connected online, which may even lead to them being remotely-controlled.
He explained: “If one thing is for sure, all cars will be connected. Currently, that means you can turn on your air conditioning or know when your car needs a service, but that is just the [first] step where the business model didn’t really change, where you still own your own car.
“In the future, when cars become autonomous, you will have to have some way to interact with the car from an operator standpoint if there is a problem. So you will have remote controlled cars.”
Rimac continued: “When the autonomous driving system cannot handle the situation there will be a person maybe sitting in another continent, connected with 5G to the car, driving you in the car to avoid a dangerous situation. And there will be a lot of traffic data being generated from the cars. Just imagine, all of the cars on the road mapping the world in real time everywhere they pass.”
“You will have a real time map of the world,” he added. For his part, Rimac is aware this future will not only impact his own company, but every successful carmaker in the world.
He said: “The question is, who produced those cars in the end? Do you care about the badge? Do you care about the performance, about the battery size, about the brakes, you don’t care about that. You don’t care about that in your train today and you also don’t care about that in your future autonomous driving pod. That comes from a car guy, I’m a car guy making electric supercars.”