Hermann Hänle
11. January 2019 0

Hands-on Automobile Science Fiction

“The air is being inexorably spoiled by the large number of benzine engines in use.” Ludwig Lohner champions electric cars. His statement sounds current, but he voiced it before the turn of the century – the nineteenth to the twentieth century.

Technology lets people dream – it always has

Earlier, the world fairs provided a stage for technological exhibitions. For instance, the one held in 1900 in Paris (“…and now the 500-euro question: Which structure was built for the 1900 world fair in Paris?”). In addition to the well-known Eiffel Tower, this world fair had a lasting influence on the mobility of the future: It showcased the metro, trolleybus, and Lohner-Porsche – the first electric hybrid car (!) – as “world premieres.” If you like, you can certainly include the escalator as a contribution to the mobility of the future as well. In the interests of completeness, here is also a list of the world’s innovations from 1900 that have nothing to do with mobility: Film, Crimean champagne, brilliantine (for well-groomed hair) and photogravure (a printing process).
Apparently, electric cars could not prevail back then. Benzine and diesel came away as the winners. Where would we be today if the design from Lohner and Porsche had turned into a hot seller? The developments from back then are forcing us to resume the discussion again now in the twenty-first century – about fine dust, air pollution, moving away from fossil oil as a source of energy, and urban mobility. It appears that Lohner’s idea was waaaaaay ahead of its time (obviously what we would term “visionary” today).

Cars as gadgets – Consumer Electronic Show

The CES (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas is the present-day equivalent of the past’s world fairs. Originally the domain of mobile phones, game consoles, computers, and televisions, it is now an event where not only automotive OEMs but also suppliers present and help fuel technology dreams on a wonderfully regular basis. Hyundai is displaying a walking car, Bosch and Schaeffler (and Rinspeed) are presenting shuttles for city traffic, and Harley-Davidson is showcasing an electric motorcycle – completely in the spirit of the times. Mercedes is presenting its enhanced voice assistant, and Audi will be showcasing a rolling cinema for the senses and virtual reality experiences for passengers.

Let me entertain you – the driving cinema

With their width, can cars really transform into rolling islands of entertainment like that? Were that to be the case, the number of visitors at drive-in cinemas would decrease drastically starting in 2025 (the target date for series maturity)😉. At any rate, there appears to be a scenario for using virtual reality experiences: Enjoying the drive with all senses (and displayed film sequences) is supposed to reduce carsickness. The virtual reality glasses could be particularly suitable for rides with rambunctious drivers.
Automobile goes entertainment – OEMs appear to be betting on this trend (every bit as much as content providers and technology companies like Samsung). Nonetheless, not everything that is possible will make it on the market. The best example of that is our Lohner-Porsche. But that is not the goal of the fair. Instead, it aims to show us as consumers – and drivers – what is possible. And that is quite a lot. Modern ICT is a fascinating kit, and not just for entertainment during car trips.

P.S.: On the sidelines of the fair, an autonomous Tesla is rumored to have run over a promotional robot. “Coincidentally,” someone had a camera at hand to record the event. War of the machines? An appealing thought. But a fake.

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