A Proposal for an Autonomous Vehicle Mobile Laboratory

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[/dropshadowbox]Transforming stupid cars into smart cars is the end-game of the Mobile Autonomous Automobile Laboratory (MAAL) project. In his presentation, renowned car designer, Michael Robinson outlines plans for creating a platform that will enable vehicle designers to move from designing objects to designing experiences. The first 30 minutes of his presentation discusses the challenges that must be addressed with the addition of autonomy to vehicles (see this link for a description of a similar presentation from Robinson).. The rest of his presentation, highlighted below, talks about how the MAAL project will provide a framework to transition to a world seen in science fiction movies like Iron Man and Terminator.

A Car Without Windows

Imagine a car without windows; that’s what Michael Robinson suggests in this clip from his presentation where he announces the launch of the Mobile Autonomous Automobile Laboratory (MAAL). Removing windows, eliminates the weight of the glass, allows for better structural design and provides for a barrier-free view. Replacing the passive windows with OLED screens and associated cameras would allow one to have a 360 degree view of the environment outside the car or experience an immersive theater-like view of any kind of entertainment or communications content.


The 2015 Goal – A Prototype

The goal is to have a 4.5 meter long prototype of the MAAL in 2015. Although it is relatively small, Robinson compares the interior of the prototype MAAL to a first-class airplane or limousine. Fundamentally, MAAL is a platform for creating experiments to find out the best ways to optimize the driving experience. Subsequent MAAL units will be available for rent or sale to other entities as a reference design of sorts.


The Experiments – The Wearable Car and More

In this segment, Robinson talks about nine potential types of experiments that MAAL will enable. These experiments are intended to address the disruptive nature of the autonomous vehicle. The biggest disruptions of autonomy will involve the human relationship with the car and even the way the car influences human relationships. As Robinson suggests, MAAL will provide ways to find exciting new interfaces to replace the steering wheel and personalize the space based on a person’s needs at a particular moment.


The MAAL Business Plan Outline

The graphic illustrates how Virtual Personal Assistants could work in the background to facilitate human relationships.
Image courtesy of ED, Design & Michael Robinson

Robinson describes a five phase business plan, which starts with the prototype, leads to a reference design that is sold or rented to clients (e.g. auto manufacturers). All the while, MAAL would also serve as a repository for the results of the various experiments by various clients and as resource for curating best practices. Phase 3 and phase 4 is the transformation of MAAL into production ready vehicles. Phase 5 would be the full implementation of Ambrogio; a concept Michael Robinson has for allowing human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interaction; a sort of persistent personal assistant that stores a lifetime of personal metadata and communicates the right metadata at the right time to the right machine.

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