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The car of the future will be designed by women, built by anyone, and fly over traffic. But what else is motoring over the horizon?


The flying car


It sounds like something from the wildest fringes of fantasy or a particularly speculative edition of the BBC’s late, lamented science series, Tomorrow’s World. But an American aeronautical company, with funding from the US Department of Defense, has developed a flying car that actually can fly and is actually available to buy. The Transition is a four-wheel vehicle, licensed for the road, which transforms into a plane in about 20 seconds and can then fly up to 500 miles. So an owner could take off from Edinburgh, for example, fly to London, fold up the wings, drive home and park in the garage.


“People tend to smirk when you say you’re trying to make a flying car,” says 42-year-old Carl Dietrich, the Transition’s inventor. “But we’re very serious about producing a flying car and selling it.”


Transition的发明者——42岁的卡尔·迪特里希说,“但我们是很认真地在制造并出售飞行汽车。” Dietrich, who has a PhD from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), began developing the Transition in 2006 at the headquarters of his company, Terrafugia, near Woburn, Massachusetts. The first test flights took place in New York state in 2009 and Dietrich expects to deliver a finished product to his first 10 customers next year, with production “ramping up” in 2014.


Of course, the Transition doesn’t come cheap. The starting price is $279,000 (£177,000), slightly less than the cheapest conventional two-seater aircraft and about the same as a supercar such as a Ferrari. Dietrich expects that most purchasers will want the Transition for “recreational purposes” — which probably translates as “showing off”.

当然,Transition可不便宜。起价为279000美元(177000英镑),稍低于最便宜的传统双座飞机,和一部超级跑车(比如说法拉利)持平。迪特里希期望大部分买家是为了“娱乐性目的” ——意思可能就是“炫耀”。

Unfortunately, it won’t be of any use to the frustrated motorist stuck in a traffic jam; the Transition needs a proper runway to take off. Nevertheless, Dietrich believes his design will be a useful tool for highly paid salesmen who have to travel large distances between customers.


The 'flat-pack’ car


Anybody who wants to see what the car of the future might look like should sneak a peek over Gordon Murray’s shoulder as he works at his computer.


Murray, now 66, made his name with Formula One. His designs for Brabham and McLaren in the Eighties won world championships for those teams and their drivers. He then turned his mind to conceiving the most exclusive and fastest road car in the world — the $1 million, 240mph McLaren F1.

穆雷今年66岁,凭一级方程式赛车出名。他在80年代设计的布拉布汉姆和迈凯轮为车队及其赛手夺取了不少冠军。然后他将精力转向构思世界上最独一无二和最快的公路赛车 - 价值100万美元,时速240英里的迈凯轮F1。

But, since 2006, Murray has had something of a Damascene conversion. Sitting in a traffic jam on the A3 one morning, surrounded by big saloon cars going nowhere fast, he suddenly realised the future of driving depended on devising a way of manufacturing small cars at a fraction of the cost that they are made today.


The result is the T.27, an ultra-compact electric vehicle. Only 8ft 2in long and 4ft 3in wide, the three-seater T.27 is so tiny that three of them can fit nose-to-the-pavement in a single parking bay and two are able to drive side by side in one lane of traffic, potentially doubling the amount of road space available without building new highways.


It’s propelled by a lightweight powertrain and, thanks to special tyres and cutting-edge aerodynamics, uses only 1.12 pence worth of energy per mile, making it the most energy-efficient car in the world.


But what’s really revolutionary about the T.27, and its petrol equivalent, the T.25, is the way they might be made. Up until now, it’s always been easier for manufacturers of large cars – as opposed to small cars – to recoup the money they laid out on their factories. This is because factory costs are the same whether you’re making a small car or a large car, but a large car delivers a much greater profit margin.


Murray has devised a production process that ends this disparity. Called iStream, it has been described as “bringing Ikea’s flat-pack construction to the car industry”. In a nutshell, the chassis is assembled separately from the body and pre-painted body panels are then mechanically fixed to the chassis at the end of the assembly line.


This, Murray claims, allows the factory to be a fifth of the size of a normal car plant and removes the need for skilled workers, thus reducing the cost of setting up a factory by 80 per cent. What’s more, because the process is so simple, the T.25 and T.27 wouldn’t necessarily have to be made by a traditional car brand. Dyson could make them. Or Virgin.
“It’s a really good idea,” says Richard Bremner, associate editor of Autocar magazine. “After 100 years, isn’t it time we came up with a different way of putting cars together?”
The traffic buster


Bill Ford may occupy the most prominent position in the world from which to survey the cars of the future. Executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford is the 54-year-old great-grandson of Henry Ford and one of the leading seers of the automotive industry.


A vegetarian, folk guitarist and taekwondo black belt, when he joined Ford’s main board in 1988, Bill was asked for the sake of the corporation’s image to end his membership of environmental organisations. He refused and, instead, insisted on bringing environmental concerns to the heart of the corporation’s policies.


Under Bill’s influence, half of Ford’s entire research budget has been channelled towards devising more fuel-efficient engines. On top of all this, quite literally, the roof of Ford’s famous River Rouge complex has been planted with acres of oxygen-producing sedum plants, creating the world’s largest roof garden.

在比尔的影响下,福特研究预算的一半被用于研发能源利用率更高的发动机。福特有名的River Rouge建筑群的顶上已经种植了大量产氧的景天属植物,成为世界最大的屋顶花园。

Bill stepped down as CEO in 2006, but, if anything, this has allowed him to explore even more radical ideas. His latest mission is to rid the world of traffic jams.


“Right now there are about seven billion people on the planet and about one billion cars,” he says. “By the middle of this century, there might be nine billion people and two to four billion cars. Those numbers are going to cause commensurately vast problems of jams and congestion.”


His solution is a network of wirelessly connected cars that drive themselves and warn each other of accidents or traffic jams. And the idea is not as pie-in-the-sky as it sounds. Google has already invented a self-driving car, a fleet of which have now clocked up a total of 300,000 miles without a single accident.And Ford is involved in a field trial in Germany, spearheaded by Daimler, in which 120 specially equipped cars are driving around the roads of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region, sending each other “status upxes” on road hazards and jams.

他的解决办法通过建立一个无线网络将汽车连接起来,汽车自动驾驶,如果发生车祸或交通堵塞则相互警告。这个想法并不像空中楼阁那般不切实际。Google已经发明了自动驾驶车,而由这种车组成的车队目前已经保持了300,000英里无任何事故的纪录。福特正在德国进行实地测试。由戴姆勒公司牵头,这个测试由120辆特装车组成,在法兰克福-莱茵-美因地区公路上行驶,互相发送有关道路状况和堵塞情况的“ 状态更新信息”

The death of the car salesman


Tesla Motors, from California’s Silicon Valley, has already earned a place in automotive history for the electric sports cars it’s created. But the world may have an even greater reason to be thankful to Tesla: the company is trying to kill off the traditional car salesman.


Since hiring Apple’s former vice president of real estate, George Blankenship, in 2010, it has been opening stores across the United States that echo the Apple aesthetic.
Apple is generally considered to have revolutionised the computer store with its bright, minimalist venues, its “concierge desks” and its “Genius” shop assistants on hand to solve customers’ computer problems. The Tesla sales staff – none of whom work on commission – are under orders to do something similar.

自从2010年起用苹果的房地产前副总裁布兰肯希普,特斯拉汽车公司一直在全美各地开设具有苹果风格的零售店。苹果公认为对计算机店进行了革命性的改造,诸如明亮、抽象的场所,前台,“天才”般的店员能随时帮顾客解决计算机问题。而特斯拉的销售职员 - 都是不拿提成的 -被指示要做类似的事。

The stores, which will soon be coming to Britain, feature coffee bars, touch-screen “Design your Tesla” displays and an open service bay so customers can watch technicians at work. The aim is to answer visitors’ questions about electric vehicles, but there is no hard sell. “Buying a car is not usually a pleasurable experience,” says spokeswoman Shanna Hendriks. “It’s uncomfortable. There’s pressure to put money down. You’re told, 'If you put 10 per cent down today, I can offer you a discount’. We don’t say that. Our goal is not necessarily to sell you a car. For the first time ever, we want you to leave a car salesroom with a smile on your face.”

而这种即将来到英国的零售店、特色咖啡酒吧以及“设计属于自己的特斯拉”的触摸屏,都显示出了其开放性服务,这样顾客就能看到正在工作的技术人员们了。这么做的目的是为了解答访客们对于电动车辆的疑问,不过这里绝没有强制推销。“买车通常不会是什么愉快的经历。”女代言人Shanna Hendriks说道,“总有人怂恿你首付定金,这种压力让我很不舒服。有人会告诉你‘如果你今天付10%的首付金的话,我们会给你打折。’但事实上我们从没这么说过。我们并不是一定要你买车。如果这是您第一次来,我们只想您带着笑容离开。”

The woman’s touch


Some visions of the future turn out to be way off the mark, but there is one thing of which we can be absolutely certain: women are going to become increasingly important to the car industry in the next two decades.


Already women are estimated to be solely responsible for choosing 35 per cent of all new cars in the UK and to have an active role in more than 80 per cent of purchasing decisions. As these figures rise, both here and around the world, manufacturers need cars that reflect female tastes.


General Motors, the manufacturer of Vauxhall cars in Britain and Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick in the United States, already has a woman – Wulin Gaowa – in charge of its new “Advanced” design studio in Shanghai. Volvo caused waves at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2004, when it unveiled a concept car — complete with “ponytail holes” in the headrests – that had been developed by an all-female team of five senior managers and three chief designers.


And four years ago, BMW revealed that the latest version of its Z4 sports car had been designed inside and out by two female designers, Nadya Arnaout and Juliane Blasi. The result, says Hilke Schaer, a senior designer at BMW, was a car that was more “human”.

四年前,BMW曾泄露出小道消息说,最新款的Z4跑车已由两名女性设计师——Nadya Arnaout 和 Juliane Blasi 完成了从内到外的一切设计。“至于结果,”BMW高级设计师 Hilke Schaer 说道,“就是一部更加人性化的车了。”

“You spend a lot of time in your car. It’s no longer just a speed machine; it’s a living space, and women are better at designing those 'emotional’ details that make a car more personal.”