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February 28, 2014
Dwell's discussion with Volvo at the Palm Springs Museum during Modernism Week touched on the past but revolved heavily around the future. Automobiles limited to combustion engine technology face an uncertain future, and automakers are looking to new technologies for both hybrid and electric models, and even further into what an automobile can be to the driver, and how the concept of driving will be redefined in the coming years. "We’re creating a whole new architecture for the car," says Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz of the Volvo Monitoring Center in Los Angeles. On the topic of moving toward the goal of having fewer cars on the road, Tylman-Mikiewicz notes, "Car sharing will make a lot of sense in the near future.” This concept, offered in "people-mover" scenarios conceptualized by the likes of Buckminster Fuller (with his Dymaxion) and architect Ray Kappe for 1970s Los Angeles, have not come to fruition, which leaves us to question why.

Progressive thinkers like Buckminster Fuller have been trying to "futurize" our mobility for decades. Fuller's 11-seat Dymaxion never made it past the concept stage, but it serves as a reminder that the multi-passenger car-sharing concept is not new.

 

© Gregory Gibbons, Courtesy Ivorypress Dymaxion

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Panelists, from left, architect Alvin Huang, Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz from Volvo, columnist and architecture critic Greg Goldin, and automotive writer and editor Paul Meyers, with moderator Erika Heet. "Issues of sustainability span all professions," notes Huang in the discussion. Added Tylman-Mikiewicz, who notes that Volvo has a goal of significantly reducing or eliminating traffic deaths by 2020, "Cars are more and more not only protecting the occupants of the car, but protecting the people outside of the car also."

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Quite fittingly, during Modernism Week the Palm Springs Art Museum was celebrating its Into the Future exhibition, which features gifts and promised gifts in honor of the museum’s 75th Anniversary. One such is Chinese artist Zhan Wang's Artificial Rock #131, which served as a futuristic complement to the E. Stewart Williams–designed museum in the background, and Volvo's new fleet in the foreground.

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Volvo will launch the world’s first city pilot with autonomous cars, and will have 100 self-driving vehicles on the road in Gothenberg in Sweden, the company’s headquarters by 2017. Volvo offered test-drives at the Modern Living Expo of its latest XC60 and S60 models, which are examples of the brand’s first steps toward autonomous driving.

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Volvo has integrated into its test cars Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake, Lane Departure Warning lane departure warning and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist and Distance Alert, which excited and challenged expo-goers who found it counterintuitive not to slam on the brakes. For the time being, these technologies address the issue of driver fatigue and distraction behind the wheel, especially in traffic. Whether an auto could—or should—be fully automated was the subject of a lively discussion at the panel.

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dymaxion car at salon prive

Progressive thinkers like Buckminster Fuller have been trying to "futurize" our mobility for decades. Fuller's 11-seat Dymaxion never made it past the concept stage, but it serves as a reminder that the multi-passenger car-sharing concept is not new.

 

© Gregory Gibbons, Courtesy Ivorypress Dymaxion

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