Dwell Media and Volvo Cars Bring The Future of Mobility to Palm Springs Modernism Week 2014

On Sunday, February 16, Dwell Media and Swedish luxury automobile manufacturer Volvo activated a day of innovation to explore the Future of Mobility at Modernism Week in Palm Springs.

Dwell’s authentic voice as the arbiter of modern design, was able to curate an event showcasing Volvo’s rich design heritage, linking past and present, and highlighting Volvo’s forward-thinking approach to autonomous driving. With technology demonstrations to sci-fi test drives to a lively discussion by industry experts, Dwell brought together nearly 100 leaders in innovation and design to debate the future of autonomous driving and the technologies that will change our lives.

“The Future of Mobility is clearly a topic of great interest to thought leaders in the design world, as there is an inextricable link between design, technology, and how we move through today’s modern world,” says Dwell President Michela O’Connor Abrams. “Key influencers were brought together in Palm Springs so a great discussion could begin, and we are committed to continuing that conversation online through engaging digital content.” Dwell will be releasing a trilogy of videos on the future of mobility, design, and technology throughout the month of March.

Joining Dwell in our conversations were architect Frank Escher; architect Ravi GuneWardena; Director of A+D Architecture and Design Museum Tibbie Dunbar; Dion and Lynn Neutra; architect Leo Marmol and Alisa Becket; architect Linda Taalman; Ray and Shelly Kappe; Gerard O'Brien of Reform Modern; Palm Springs Art Museum curator Sidney Williams; SHFT Founder Peter Glatzer; Ross Klein of Imagination; CEO of Newlight Technologies Mark Herrema; and panelists Alvin Huang, Greg Goldin, Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, and Paul Meyers.

“Issues such as sustainability and autonomous mobility need to be explored not through the mode of how to fix the existing paradigm of the automobile, but rather as new paradigms for how people access cities,” says Alvin Huang, Founder and Design Principal of Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA), a Los Angeles–based design studio.

Huang created the “Pure Tension Pavilion,” which made its U.S. debut this weekend as part of Dwell’s activation at the Modern Living Expo and Prefab Showcase. Hundreds of design enthusiasts flocked to the pavilion—a free-standing tensioned membrane structure—that is a rapidly deployable and portable solar charging station designed to power up the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, the world’s first Diesel Plug-in Hybrid. Huang conceived and created the pavilion last year as part of a design exploration organized by Volvo Car Italia. “With the Pure Tension Pavilion we saw the opportunity to question the pavilion and the power source as infrastructural destinations that the car would drive to, and instead think of them as accessories that the car traveled with.”

Huang and his colleagues debated the future of mobility at a lecture at the Palm Springs Art Museum moderated by Erika Heet, Dwell’s Los Angeles editor. Carl Hansen & Son provided furniture at both the pavilion and the lecture, their safari chair, folding chairs and wishbone chairs showcasing the best in Scandinavian furniture and midcentury modern design.

Other panelists included Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, General Manager, Volvo Monitoring & Concept Center Los Angeles; Paul Meyers, automotive expert, former Robb Report correspondent; and Greg Goldin, former automotive columnist and curator of the A+D Architecture and Design Museum’s Never Built Los Angeles exhibition in 2013.

For Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, the main reason for the development of autonomous driving is safety at a time when distracted driving—texting or using a cell phone, most often—is increasingly becoming the norm. “A significant [number] of collisions are caused by human error,” he says. Tylman-Mikiewicz hopes that autonomous driving will make driving fun again by allowing drivers to split their focus safely. "We all increasingly experience moments where traffic is just frustrating; we’re moving toward providing consumers with the opportunity to delegate driving when it's not a great experience. In the future, I believe that we will be more picky about when we drive, and when we do, we'll truly enjoy it."

Volvo will launch the world’s first city pilot with autonomous cars, and will have 100 self-driving vehicles on the road in Gothenberg, Sweden, the home to 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 Volvo’s first steps toward autonomous driving. The cars feature Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and auto brake, which excited and challenged expo-goers who found it counterintuitive not to slam on the brakes when approaching another car.

After the lecture, VIP guests were whisked off in a fleet of Volvos to the Marmol Radziner desert prefab house in Desert Hot Springs, where the conversation continued. Facebook’s Matt Jacobsen and his wife, designer Kristopher Dukes, hosted the event at their desert oasis, with a fitting view of one of the country’s largest wind farms visible on the horizon. Guests sat on carbon-negative (AirCarbon) chairs provided by KI. The catering was courtesy of Workshop, and exquisite dinnerware was provided by Norm.

Check back at dwell.com in early March to join the continuing conversation on the #futureofmobility and watch leading innovators of industry share their views on where mobility is headed.

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