British automotive marque Mini has unveiled the Mini Vision Urbanaut, a “digital vision vehicle” which seems to exist only in digital space, but which the compant insists provides “an all-new interpretation of a vision of space.”
BBC Top Gear writer Tom Harrison summed up well Mini ’s latest “world exclusive” when he wrote of “yet another electric autonomous pod-like concept thing” which “likely … exists only as a CAD model”.
Mini ’s latest announcement is a little confusing. Described by the company as a “digital vision vehicle” the Mini Vision Urbanaut appears to be a digital-only concept vehicle designed less as a car and more as a 70s-style swinger’s lounge suite.
The Vision Urbanaut is described as offering “more interior space and versatility than ever before, but still on a minimal footprint.”
“The Mini brand has always stood for ‘Clever Use of Space’,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design. “In the Mini Vision Urbanaut, we extend private space far into the public realm, creating completely new and enriching experiences.”
Mini ’s revelation that “the Mini Vision Urbanaut was designed from the inside out” is hardly surprising, nor the fact that “designers created the spacious interior experience before developing the exterior, using floor plans, pieces of furniture plus wooden scale models to provide an indication of size.”
With only one entry, a big sliding door on the side of the car, the all-electric vehicle also boasts autonomous driving functions. Given that the Vision Urbanaut is nothing more than a digital dream, however, there are no specifics for how this all-electric vehicle would be powered.
The entire focus of the design and announcement appears to be on the “all-new interpretation of a vision of space.” “Mini sees its future self primarily as an enabler of and companion for unforgettable times – what we might call ‘Mini moments’,” said Oliver Heilmer, head of Mini Design.
As such, the design envisions three different vehicle modes, or “Mini moments” – ‘Chill’, ‘Wanderlust’, and ‘Vibe’, in which only Wanderlust actually allows you to drive the vehicle (or let it drive you). Chill and Vibe are basically suggestions of how to use your new lounge-on-wheels, either as a room for work or relaxation (Chill) or to spend time with others (Vibe).
Mini claims there are three distinct areas. The driver’s area can be converted into a “Daybed” area – where the dashboard lowers and becomes something like a corner sofa – and a “Street Balcony” where, yes, you guessed it, the windscreen can be opened upwards.
Somewhat ominously, according to Mini , the “darker environs of the cabin’s rear section provide a quieter space – the Cosy Corner” boasts LED backlighting and a rear seat bench which “invites various seating and lying positions.”
The Vision Urbanaut’s “all-new interpretation of a vision of space” seems to have taken a leaf out of Dr. Who’s Tardis, as the company explains that “between Cosy Corner and the driver’s area is the open and airy central section of the car, which offers quick access to all seating areas.”
Opening the side door allows people to also sit on the floor in the open central section, while “a small integrated table with a plant adds a finishing touch to the interior fittings.”
That same table is also the working mechanism for activating one of the three “Mini moments” using the “Mini Token”, which “is roughly the same size as a worry stone and activates the three preconfigured MINI moments … when placed in purpose-designed slots in the table at the centre of the car.”