Technology can redefine the way we design, collaborate and create the modern automobile

Last month I posted my thoughts on collaborative design and how the concept of a virtual design studio in the cloud can be put in place. The automobile industry does offer a lot of opportunities towards ‘virtual design’ since the best possible talent (be it individuals or groups) specializing in different skill sets could be located anywhere across the globe or be constantly on the move.

While working on Project Cub – my first automobile design initiated in early 2012, I realized the need for technology to offer a stable platform which makes it possible to connect and communicate with people around the globe in real time. Co-creation has to bring people closer in many ways even if they are geographically apart. While a lot of existing platforms do offer solutions in some form of the other, none of them seem to be as well integrated and robust as WeChat;  a multimedia messaging and communication service that is platform independent and allows you to connect irrespective of the device you use. Apart from the fact that it supports text, hold-to-talk voice messaging and photo/video sharing; it also offers a huge advantage in terms of group broadcast/ chat and location sharing.

Now that is exactly what collaborative design development is all about. While I live in New Delhi, I am constantly interacting with people across Pune, Mumbai, London, New York, Los Angeles and Milan, as a part of my project development. Recently someone asked me, “If I had an opportunity to connect with 5 or more people in a WeChat group, who would they be, and why?”; and that really got me thinking. Imagine how wonderful it would be, if I had some of the best people from around the world, across continents & industries on my WeChat group working together to design, co-create and collaborate on the modern automobile. It’s just fascinating.

So here’s my wish list of 5 people who I look up to as creative icons and with whom I would love to explore every intricate detail of my project as it takes shape. These are people who have achieved impossible things through sheer perseverance and focus and are unique in their own field:

1. Chris Bangle. Because he is one of the most talented automobile designers the world has ever seen. He was the former Chief Designer at BMW and was responsible for cars such as the 3, 5, 6 and 7 Series, X5 and X6 SUVs. He also played a major role in the redesign of the Rolls Royce Phantom. Although his designs have proven controversial, his cars have been much loved around the world. Ideating and co-creating with him will truly be an enriching experience.

2. Sir Richard Branson. Because he has always been very supportive of new business ideas and as an angel investor, his resources could well turn my dream initiative into a reality. He started his first business venture – a magazine called Student, at the age of 16; while I started my automobile blog magazine at the age of 13. So he can never beat me at that. But as someone who seeks thrill and adventure in his work, I totally identify with him. He is a multi billionaire business magnate, owns Virgin and has always dared to do things differently. His quirky & edgy business acumen combined with a ‘live like there is no tomorrow’ attitude makes him immensely enigmatic. As they say, “your attitude defines your altitude” and there can be no better example than him. It has taken him up into the skies and now into outer space as well.

3. Anand Mahindra. What can I say about him? He is my hero and I consider him my guiding force. I have had the good fortune of interacting with him and my interview with him on this platform has the highest page views, and that makes me very happy. He is a proud Indian and a man with a global vision. His stature, goodwill, extensive knowledge of the automobile industry, global reach, design acumen and technology drive can lend tremendous credibility to any project. As a business mentor, he can be the beacon that shows the light that we all would follow.

4. Ralph Lauren. Because no one understands luxury and comfort as well as him. And that combination is important in an automobile. The ace American is one of the most influential fashion designers ever and has the ability to add a dash of style and sophistication into automobile interiors. His trim, fit & finish can alter the interior design language of even the most well conceived automobile and take it to another level.

5. Sir Jonathan Ive. Because the man behind almost all current Apple products (including the Macbook series, iPod series, iPad and iPad Mini) could bring about a revolution in making the automobile more intuitive, tech enabled, aesthetic and functional.

He can help make the automobile of the future integrate seamlessly with our ‘always connected’ world while on the move. Whether it is vehicle information, head up navigation, entertainment, or technology driven features that enhance performance, efficiency and safety, he would be the last word. The Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple is one of the most successful product designers in recent times. He was named one of the top 100 innovators under 35 by MIT Technology Review and The Most Influential Person on British Culture by the BBC. He was GQ’s Product Designer of the Year in 2007. Steve Jobs once said of Ives, “If I have a spiritual partner at Apple, it’s Jony.”

Now that you have read it, take a deep breath. And then imagine. All these incredible people (and me of course) in one WeChat group, working together to give the world products it never thought it would ever need. Even they would love the thought, wouldn’t they?

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