As car fans, it’s often the simple things that delight us: the analog experience of driving a car from the pre-traction control days, the sound of a flat-plane-crank V8, the hand-hammered beauty of something like the Jaguar D-Type. But we can’t escape the future, and the next generation of automobile will be both electric and autonomous. That doesn’t mean that things can’t be interesting, though.
Legendary car designer Henrik Fisker knows this all too well. This man held the pen responsible for beauties like the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9, and his own Fisker Karma, so it’s safe to say that whatever bears this man’s name will be interesting to look at. Enter Fisker Inc.’s latest concept: the Orbit autonomous shuttle.
Fisker’s Orbit is a box made sleek, with lots of glass, external digital projections, and a ton of space inside. And to us — who spent way too much time watching ’80s sci-fi — it looks like something straight out of the mind of Syd Mead. If that name doesn’t ring any bells, his work will. Mead literally designed the future, penning the machines of TRON, Blade Runner, and Aliens. So if we can get a ride in a real-life Syd Mead car, that’s alright with us.
But while Fisker is adept at making cars look pretty, creating a vehicle that’s fully autonomous requires a whole other level of engineering know-how. As good as machine-learning is, we don’t yet have the technology that can adapt to ever-changing road conditions as well as the human brain. So while other companies are spending billions of dollars to develop AI that can adapt to our current roads, Fisker is researching a different path.
The electric coachbuilder has partnered with Chinese conglomerate Hakim Unique Group (HUG). With over 160 companies in its portfolio, HUG is investing big and developing the infrastructure needed to create “smart” cities all over the globe. The technology engineered into these smart cities will be able to communicate directly with Fisker’s Orbit, helping ensure that the autonomous shuttle can safely ferry its passengers from point to point.
There’s not a whole lot else known about the Fisker Orbit and HUG’s smart city infrastructure, but more information should be coming soon. Very soon. Fisker is claiming that the Orbit will be autonomously running — somewhere — by the end of this year. And if Fisker can deliver on its promise of a solid-state battery with a 400-mile range and 1-minute recharging time (estimated to arrive around 2023), its Orbit autonomous shuttle should revolutionize the future of transportation. But if we could get a special version with a flat-plane-crank V8, that would be okay, too.