In an unusual but refreshing collaboration, Renault has sponsored a competition with Central Saint Martins' industrial design students – rather than those from an automotive or transport design course – to imagine a future autonomous vehicle interior.
The winning project – a one-person wearable vehicle suit with a gesture-controlled, virtual reality in-visor display – was announced on 25 May at a special Q&A discussion evening with Anthony Lo, Renault’s exterior design VP, at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, as part of the carmaker’s headline sponsorship of the 2016 Clerkenwell Design Week.
Called Renault Oura, the futuristic design was the work of the three-strong, all-female international team of Lily Saporta Tagiuri (US), Evgeniya Chernykh (Russia) and Zhenyou Gao (China), who beat 25 fellow students from eight other teams after several months of intense work. All are in their first year of the MA Industrial Design course at Central Saint Martins, a college within the University of the Arts London, whose famous alumni include popstars (Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker), actors (Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy) and product and fashion designers (including Terence Conran and Stella McCartney).
The judging panel – including Lo – appreciated Project Oura’s stripping away of the vehicle’s interior almost completely, bar the inside of the visor, and how this would enable closer interaction with the traveling environment as a result. The vehicular suit itself was conceived as a flexible structure of woven steel, carbon fibre and silicone suspended above spherical wheels driven by electric motors, and stabilised by an array of in-built gyroscopes.
'This has been a really fascinating competition,' Lo enthused, 'to see some of the brightest upcoming design talent take on the challenge of how autonomous technology might influence the world of transportation in the future. The final three entries all have great merit but we were most impressed by Oura because the designers went beyond the confines of a vehicle and created the most surprising concept.'
The two highly-commended runners-up were the well-researched SYEO (Share Your Extra Office) project – a mobile office with inflatable seats, a giant side-hinged clear door and an interactive picture window, pitched as an antidote to expensive London workplace rentals – and the colourful Renault Phantasy, which imagined a configurable three-wheel city car, inspired by product designer Verner Panton's late 1960s and early 70s work – in which occupants could change the interior space to better work or play.
The prize for the winning Oura team is an exclusive internship at Renault Design’s Technocentre in Paris, in early July.