Automotive science and fiction (Peugeot and Citroen)

<!– ©PSA Peugeot Citroën –>James Bond’s 2CV in For Your Eyes Only

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Automotive science and fiction

From James Bond to The Fifth Element via Matrix and Star Wars, automotive vehicles have been transformed for the big screen. These changes find their way into regular production cars every once in a while, but generally reality rarely copies fiction. In fact, the opposite is usually the case.

JGeek 23B points its tentacle toward the vortex and says “Just you wait, Earthling, we will show you what a car is really about”. But what would an extraterrestrial vehicle actually look like? Actually, the first such vehicles already exist – and are waiting on the Moon for humans to go and drive them. Going by the sonorous name of Lunar Roving Vehicle, these utilitarian vehicles have travelled about 100 kilometres on the lunar surface as part of the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.

When cars fly
“I often think that science fiction filmmakers are happy enough taking familiar auto features into the future or simply making cars fly,” says Jean-Christophe Bolle-Reddat, Peugeot concept car architect. “In The Fifth Element, Bruce Willis drives a classic New York cab that flies. And Fantômas features a DS that suddenly takes to the air.”
Flying cars raise questions for designers of more down-to-earth vehicles. “The problem isn’t building a flying car,” says Carlo Alessandro Bonzanigo, head of international cooperation agreements and concept cars at Citroën Styling, “it’s more about learning how to drive in three dimensions. Flying vehicles would be easier to develop than the traffic management system for flying vehicles. For the moment, any such individual transport is out of the question.”

Rocket launchers and good looks
The most imaginative film franchise in terms of cars has to be the James Bond movies, positioned at the border of science fiction. Bond’s gadgets and fancy vehicle features – amphibian cars, rocket propulsion et al. – often come up short on functionality for real-world driving. “That said, some people might like the idea of a rocket launcher when stuck in traffic!” laughs Carlo Alessandro Bonzanigo.
Concept-car designers are rarely impressed by the imagination of science fiction directors. “The stuff we were looking at 15 years ago seemed like science fiction,” says Jean-Christophe Bolle-Reddat, ”technology like GPS, multimedia, warning-vibration seats and reverse radars that we use today on regular cars. Today we’re focusing on man-machine interfaces with a lot of tactile functions. There is also going to be plenty of radar-derived technology. All of this is already in our current concept cars.”
But what does interest designers in science fiction cars is the way they look. “We’re interested in the complex shapes of the vehicles,” says Jean-Christophe. “For the concept cars that preceded the 607, ‘La Féline’, we were influenced by science fiction.” Each designer has his or her favourite science fiction world, inspired by the films that have impressed them the most. Some go for the off-kilter aesthetics of Blade Runner, while others prefer the sleek futurism of Minority Report or Star Wars, while others are fans of the classic futurism of Matrix or Knight Rider. Just so long as they steer clear of Mad Max!

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