I want a different car.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with my car… well, it might be getting on a bit, and its a Skoda, but aside from that, there is nothing wrong with it. Still, I’m beginning to think about what I want in a new car, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t exist.

Since my readership probably consists of tens of thousands of car designers all wanting to hear what I personally want in a car I’m going to share my thoughts with them (and indeed you). My point here is that the existing ideas about cars may suit most people, but there are niches which seem untapped, and maybe it is time for a company to do to the car market what Apple have done for the tablet and mobile phone.

The main thing I want is a car that will drive itself. Big strides are being being made here from groups all around the world. I expect to see self driving cars in the near future, and hope they are given a decent chance by the press and public.  Still, they’re not going to happen by the time I replace my Skoda.

I also quite fancy an electric car. I’ve one the maths, and I reckon for my needs a reliable range of 150 miles on a cold day is the minimum I need. And it needs to keep its charge for three weeks in an airport car park. And it needs to be cheap. Not as cheap as its petrol equivalent, but not expensive. It should save me money now if I were to drive 6000 miles. Again, the market is close, but it isn’t where I need it to be next.

So, those ideas are not plausible at the moment. But the other things I want are. They just don’t exist in the market place:

I want a cheap car.  Twelve grand seems a fair top price. I’ll go higher if you can convince me there is a good reason to (the electric car and the self driving cars would both convince me to spend a few more grand).

I don’t want to have to build it myself. Or to have to pay extra for someone else to build it for me. I’m ruling out kit cars here.

I want it to be cheap to run. This means it needs to be light.

I want it to have reasonable acceleration at junctions, and when motorways slope upwards. I’ve been in underpowered cars that don’t meet these goals, but my 1.4 liter Skoda does. I’m not asking for a 12 cylinder engine or anything. I guess the torque of a decent electric motor would help here.

I don’t really care about passengers. I’m happy with it being a second car. So maybe one person could join me, but sitting behind me.  Because:

I want the driver to sit in the centre of the front of the car. No passenger on my left (or right). That way, I can take it abroad with me and still be on the right side. This idea necessitates either a flappy paddle gear change or being an automatic. I can handle both.

I don’t want built in gadgets, because I expect to buy new gadgets faster than I buy cars. So while I like the idea of in car networking features, at most they should go as far as in care WiFi routing. Give me a socket for a sim card and ideally support for inter-car mesh routing and no more.  But all the gadgets I may want are usb powered, so give me a high friction shelf, with built in grippers of varying types, and a powered USB hub. Stick some powered USB ports in the boot too. I might want to add some storage. By default, turn the USB power off when I’m not in the car.

Provide a way that I can access any in car data streams, both mechanical (if the car can tell the same things a mechanic can tell about what sensors are broken, it can tell me in a nice friendly way) and generally provided to the user (Speedo etc). Provide them by http over the wireless network, so my devices can record them. If the car has a black box recorder, I want all of that available for my devices to read. There is a lot I can do with this data, so let me at it.

I don’t need much boot space, about enough for 1 large suitcase should be fine. Maybe I could have a bit more, if I didn’t have a passenger.

Ideally let me use the car as a mobile office.  Give me a convenient desk that I can pull out when I’m not driving.  If you can provide me with a way for the car to make me a coffee, so much the better. Office style storage is more useful to me than a glove box and space for golf clubs. A built in keyboard and trackball would be really handy.

Overall, this is about redefining what a car is.  To me, a car is not a penis extension or a status symbol, it is an extension of my office, a mobile cave for me to be in. What I want is more space, more room to be me. And I don’t see the need to pay much for it – given how cheap we have managed to amek computers, why can’t we try to do the same sort of thing with the basic motor car?

Does everyone really want the four or five seat box I see outside the window? Am I really so much of a niche that I’m the only person who thinks a car could be something totally different?


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