Meet two start-ups electrifying the car industry

Design based on urban function, start-ups Canoo and Cruise are creating a new automotive future

Two cars
Canoo Design
(Image credit: press)

Beneath the streamlined glamour and shiny technology of the auto shows, an alternative automotive future is quietly taking shape. This month marked the opening of a waitlist for a very different kind of car, the Canoo. This LA-based start-up is quietly shifting perceptions of what urban transit actually needs to be, driven by function and available technology, rather than the raw, emotive aesthetics of brands. 

‘Cars always have been designed to convey a certain image and emotion; however, we chose to completely rethink car design and focus on what future users will actually need. Thus, we came up with this loft-inspired vehicle,' says Richard Kim, who oversees design at Canoo. Kim’s career has been defined by the cutting edge. A former employee at BMW, where he was one of the core team behind the BMW i3 and i8 electric cars, from concept through to production, he also had a spell at Faraday Future, the bold but troubled start-up that never succeeded in launching a car. 

The Canoo approach is far more modest, aiming at what customers want and need, rather than offering them up the ultimate in desirable design. ‘Two years ago, Canoo began with a simple question: ‘How can we make electric vehicles easier to access and a more sensible option for people living in cities?', the company states. Their LA location is an undeniable generator of ideas, for this is a city where traffic is a way of life. The car's living room like configuration and autonomous ability is aimed at making the most of this imposed daily downtime. 

Up the coast, another start-up has similar ideas. Only this time, the backing is more conventional. Cruise is General Motors' autonomous car division, a San Francisco-based studio that wants to absorb its high-tech surroundings. Cruise's first concept, unveiled this week, is the Origin, another lozenge-like living room on wheels that's due to begin testing soon. Canoo, on the other hand, is already inviting Angelenos to become early adopters and sign up for ownership free transit.

white car

Cruise Origin in San Francisco’s cultural district

(Image credit: press)

Black colour car

Canoo Design

(Image credit: press)

White colour car

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Many cars model

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Car door opened

(Image credit: press)

INFORMATION

canoo.com (opens in new tab)
getcruise.com (opens in new tab)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.