Screenshot 2018-07-31 11.52.33

Plastics Enabling Autonomy In New Directions: Mobile Art Gallery

 By Steven Lee

As a kid growing up in Ontario, I wanted to be a dentist. But, as I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in biopharmaceutical sciences, I changed direction.

I loved cars my entire life and I wasn’t exposed to Industrial Design till I heard about College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

It is my dream school and I love working on assignments like creating an autonomous car of the future that honors what makes Detroit’s culture so special.

I realized what I really loved was art, design… and cars.

So, I headed to College for Creative Studies in Detroit… a haven for artists.

I love the work we do here… Like this assignment to create an autonomous car of the future that honors what makes Detroit’s culture so special.

What’s special to me about Detroit? Its cars and its artists… Artists like my friends at CCS, who need space to display and promote their art.

So I developed an autonomous car, which plastics can make into a mobile art gallery. It brings cutting-edge, multimedia pieces to the people of Detroit wherever they live and work. And, it gives artists a chance to get that all-important marketing exposure needed to both make a living, and a splash, any time, any place.

My two-passenger vehicle will have:

  • Screens on the outside that project multimedia art. The people of Detroit can experiences this art while having lunch at an outdoor café or just walking to work.
  • And, it will have screens on the inside that allow the passengers to experience augmented reality and virtual reality backgrounds as they travel.

From the outside:

  • The images are continuous across windows and over the body panels.
  • And, these images can be viewed while the car is moving in traffic, as well as when it is parked in a lot, or on the street.

From the inside:

  • The passengers see the augmented image in a center counsel and window displays.
  • And, the passengers can use an app or voice control to pick the image shown inside or outside the car.
  • They can also control the opacity of the image. So, the riders choose whether they can see—or be seen by—those on the outside the car. Remember this vehicle is autonomous.

Without plastics, this car would not be possible.

My design takes advantage of these lightweight, flexible and durable polymer materials.

  • ABS Thermoplastic is used for body panels and a carbon-fiber reinforced polymer forms the structural support of the car frame.
  • Also, pOLED on polycarbonate see-through plastics lets us put thin, yet beautiful displays on curved surfaces. These are the screens that let the videos or film “come alive.”
  • And, because of plastics, the artist’s “mobile canvas” can change shapes, too. Thermoset plastic adhesives allow for reversible bonding. That means the carriage portion of the car can swap with a body that’s an entirely new shape… repeatedly. So, the vehicle will change as the market changes and as the buyer’s needs change.

This car helps artists sell their works. The car can convey important marketing messages—like a date when a physical gallery will have an opening of the artist’s work, or the artist’s website. Or, a sponsor’s ad could be displayed.

In addition, there is a printer inside the car. This way, riders can print out an image they like during their ride, including contact information.

The movable gallery will go to the right neighborhoods. Guided by trending data and via artificial intelligence, this car will move to areas where people who are interested in this particular genre of art gather.

Pulling together these new technologies, new materials and artistic sensibilities makes this a special project for the Motor City, one that celebrates its long history and still strong legacy of design beauty and genius.

My hope is this mobile art gallery will make the Detroit of the future a more beautiful, and artistic city – inspiring it to greater heights, than it already is, today.