Driving down a long sparse stretch of Arizona highway, cactus wrens steading home outside of the passenger side window, towering volcanic mountain ranges thrusting up through the crusts of the earth like a swarm of Phoenix rising in flames from the desert floor. You lean over your steering wheel and peer up at the sky, seeing a flock of birds zigging and zagging, seemingly random movements done in perfect unison. These birds, or the observation of them, just may be the future of the automobile.
The new Autonomo concept is the brainchild of Charles Rattray, a design student in Melbourne, Australia who first saw the need for a whole new kind of car after living in Los Angeles for five years.
“While the city continues to grow in population, the congestion problem gets worse every year, hindering economic growth and exacerbating environmental and sustainability problems,” he said.
Able to split a lane and equipped with object-recognition sensors, the Autonomo concept draws upon principles derived from “swarm robotics” to move as many vehicles as possible in the smallest available space and in the quickest possible manner. Like a flock of birds or a school of fish, groups of Autonomos could quickly move in tandem to maximize free space on a highway, thus going a long way towards solving traffic, congestion, pollution, and energy problems.
What makes Rattray’s concept so unique amongst a hoard of “micro” or “pod” cars coming out as concepts this year and next is the stepping back and taking a view towards the big picture. As discussed before, you do not want to be in a pod and get into an accident with a semi, its just common sense, thus we will likely not see too many of these on Phoenix Valley roads anytime soon.
So what is the solution? Well, you wouldnt want to ride one of these on the open road for the same reason that you would not want to ride a bicycle on the freeway. We solve this problem for bikes by building separate bike paths, or at least that is the goal. We can do the same thing for micro and pod cars such as Autonomo, leaving a part of the freeway open to regular traffic and a part open only to microcars, cars which will drive in tandem, cars which will drive autonomously.