Conventional car companies are increasingly hampered by their reliance on familiar forms and heritage cues to keep their brands alive. Although new mobility concepts do exist (JLR’s recent Project Vector springs to mind), the functional, box-like form that best suits short point-to-point journeys is never going to embody such saleable commodities as style, elegance, speed and dynamism. 

The time is right, one would have thought, for industrial designers to seize the moment and create new ideas that aren’t weighed down by the baggage of heritage. The Quarter Car by Seymourpowell ticks this box. The London-based studio counts many big-name brands amongst its clients, but for this project the 65-strong consultancy struck out on its own to explore a new language for autonomous technology. 

Quarter Car by SeymourPowell

Top, inside a compartment in the futuristic Quarter Car. Bottom, birds eye view of the four distinct compartments

As its name suggests, the compact Quarter Car is divided up into four compartments, each containing a self-contained business-class style seat. The separating partitions can be retracted to open or close the interior, while the uncompromisingly four-square appearance eschews aerodynamics for maximum volume. It’s not about speed, it’s about space. Fully driverless and electrically powered, the Quarter Car is an ‘automobile’ reduced to its essential components, its form utterly determined by function. 

Seymourpowell has worked extensively in the aviation and rail industries and envisages the Quarter Car as a ‘last mile’ solution for business travellers seeking an airport transfer, for example. The sub-dividable space makes private ride sharing a true possibility, giving the vehicle the ability to seamlessly pick up new passengers along a route without disturbing the other riders. Filling these empty seats is a notoriously tricky problem for the app-driven ride hailing business – some studies suggest that digitally hailing a cab creates marginally more emissions than just driving yourself. 

There are obviously some legislative hurdles to overcome before a concept like the Quarter Car becomes reality. What is certain, however, is that for cities to become more liveable, the current way of doing things is going to have to change. As personal mobility evolves, ideas like the Quarter Car will become increasingly attractive, putting traditional brands on the back foot as people demand new ways of getting around in comfort. §