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Quarterre Studio https://quarterre.com Product Design Studio Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:59:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 Moving Relationships https://quarterre.com/moving-relationships/ Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:59:37 +0000 https://quarterre.com/?p=716   Providing mobility as a service instead of simply selling cars is hard. Look at the following two examples: Uber recently announced a $5.2billion loss...

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One big fleet from two small cars – Drive Now and Car2Go merged in 2018. Pic: DriveNow

Providing mobility as a service instead of simply selling cars is hard. Look at the following two examples:

Uber recently announced a $5.2billion loss in the 2nd ¼ of 2019 and is yet to turn a profit in its entire 10-year history.

Where to now? Asks Uber. Pic: Uber

Last year, Daimler and BMW decided to merge Drive Now and Car2Go, their respective car-sharing schemes, citing the need to achieve scale in order to be profitable.

 

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at how hard it is. To put this in context, UK train operators report profit margins of less than 2.5%. Mobility as a service means maintaining an on-going relationship with the customer. Cutting and running isn’t an option.

 

Pic: Lyft

It’s interesting to see how those services that are not tied to OEMs – Uber, Lyft and Citymapper to name three – are busy expanding the scope of their mobility offerings. The Uber app can be used for scooter, bikes and cars in many countries, Lyft will tell you when a bus or train is quicker and Citymapper is working hard to aggregate as many options as possible and will suggest how these can be best combined. In many ways they are emulating the established model of counterparts such as Transport for London in offering multi-modal options to their customers.

Choices, choices, choices… Pic: Citymapper

 

These mobility services are becoming hardware-agnostic to some extent. Meaning that in turn, their success depends more and more on the quality of the complete user experience. A poorly realised app interface is deadly for companies in this sector. And if the vehicles are difficult to use and poorly looked-after, they must add much value in convenience to make up for this.

 

Offering a service is about building a relationship, it is an on-going proposition requiring good communication (interfaces) and good maintenance (unsexy and undervalued, in our experience). That demands time, energy and the ability to listen and empathise.

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Turning Circles – Sustainable Design Thinking https://quarterre.com/turning-circles-sustainable-design-thinking/ Sat, 03 Aug 2019 21:52:58 +0000 https://quarterre.com/?p=692 Increasingly, we are being asked by clients how they we can help them to make their businesses greener. What this actually means is changing. A...

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Increasingly, we are being asked by clients how they we can help them to make their businesses greener. What this actually means is changing. A few years ago, material or aerodynamic performance were at the forefront of clients’ minds. Environmental friendliness could be achieved through improved engineering. Green products would stretch our resources further. These days though, the challenges our clients are facing require deeper, more profound changes to not only their products, but also their services and even business models.

There are many reasons for this and incidentally, it is worth noting just how many corporate presentations feature pictures of Greta Thunberg these days – proof positive to even the most jaded cynic that individual actions can snowball and have massive effects.

Doughnut Economics Diagram, Source: Kate Raworth and Christian Guthier/The Lancet Planetary Health

Not uncoincidentally, we’ve been reading Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth recently. It is well worth the time of any designer who wants to understand the assumptions that have led us, sometimes unthinkingly, down the path to a ‘growth at all costs’ mindset and how we can reframe our systems to build new economic and social models that respect the natural constraints of the planet we live on.

Most designers are used to designing within a system. These can be the existing manufacturing processes of a client, their business models or customer expectations. Constraints are good. Constraints can drive creativity. As Raworth explains in her book, globally, the constraints we are faced with are quite simply, the capacity of the natural systems of the Earth to support life and what is needed to make those lives safe, healthy and dignified for all of us. And this, means not taking out more than we put in.

Circularity then, is a vital component of a sustainable financial and social system. This poses interesting challenges to designers. We need to design products with a view to what happens at the end of their life. More often than not, this could well mean designing for repair and re-use. And this is an interesting notion, as for some things this seems like a challenging re-framing – We have got dangerously used to practically disposable consumer electronics, doomed to biennial obsolescence due to the speed of technical advances and the difficulty of upgrades past a certain point. In some cases however, upgrading even centuries-old designs with the latest technology is par for the course. We are already doing it without even noticing.

Jaguar Classic E-Type Zero Interior. Picture: Jaguar Media

In a thought-provoking article for CarDesignNews recently, Aidan Walsh examined the idea of ‘responsible cars’ and how designing vehicles with an awareness of these environmental issues might change their appearance: no more oversized exhaust pipes and perhaps even less leather in the interior. Intriguingly, he also suggested that perhaps the most sustainable way of creating a new car might be to take an old one and update it – something that has been finding a niche of late with a growing number of specialists in the electrification of classics and oldtimers.

Kolumba Museum by Peter Zumthor, Cologne. Picture: HPSchaefer, Wikimedia

Some of the most striking works of architecture are the result of adding new extensions or elements to older buildings. What would it look like if we did this for cars and how much would we want or need to change them to be able to call them ‘new’? In fact, do we really need to, or would ‘newer’ be just as good?

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Director Clive Hartley on the Inside Silverstone Podcast https://quarterre.com/director-clive-hartley-on-the-inside-silverstone-podcast/ Fri, 28 Jun 2019 16:07:20 +0000 https://quarterre.com/?p=686 Quarterre director Clive Hartley talks to Chris Broome FPFS on the Inside Silverstone podcast for the Silverstone Tchnology Cluster.Listen as Clive explains his creative journey...

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Quarterre director Clive Hartley talks to Chris Broome FPFS on the Inside Silverstone podcast for the Silverstone Tchnology Cluster.Listen as Clive explains his creative journey from Porsche Design through to launching a consultancy business with superstar clients including Bentley Motors Ltd and The LEGO Group (yes you’ve read that correctly).

Clive also talks to Chris about their involvement in the autonomous and EV spaces; and the importance of collaboration which has seen a triathlon bike partnership with another Silverstone Technology Cluster member firm.

 

Listen here: https://lnkd.in/epYiV3x

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A Tram For Coventry – Moving Architecture https://quarterre.com/a-tram-for-coventry-moving-architecture/ Tue, 04 Jun 2019 15:56:13 +0000 https://quarterre.com/?p=672   A Tram for Coventry is an electric autonomous tram concept that we have created to showcase our vision of how public transport can work...

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A Tram for Coventry is an electric autonomous tram concept that we have created to showcase our vision of how public transport can work in harmony with, and enhance, the visual character of a city.

It has been the starting point for an investigation into intelligent mobility that we have been conducting for the last few months. We have looked at how, just like a Routemaster bus, the vehicles that will carry us around our cities in the future can become a coherent element of the visual language of our environment.

Inspired by the Very Light Rail project, that is introducing technology from the automotive field into the world of trams and creating a new public transport network for the City of Coventry, we started by looking at the simple surfaces and tall, slender columns of Coventry’s Grade 1-Listed Cathedral to create a moving architectural space. This helped us define a visual language for the design, creating details such as the ceiling structure of the tram which draws direct inspiration from the vaulted ceiling of the Cathedral, as do the faceted, side windows and the floor-to-ceiling columns in the door areas.

Our intention was not to evoke speed, the exterior of the tram is not a wedge-shape or speedform but a clean, architectural volume, vertical yet flowing with one end of the bi-directional vehicle smoothly curved and the other dramatically intersected by a glass façade.

The semi-circular plan shape of the exterior is reflected on the inside of the tram, framing an area of bench seating ideal for families or groups. On one side of the interior, the seating takes the form of a ribbon of wooden ply. This rises next to one set of doors, creating space for wheelchair users, prams or bicycle storage, ensuring the tram is accessible to all and can integrate into a multi- modal public transport system.

We believe that key to the success of mass transport systems is an enjoyable user experience that makes travelling in the company of others a pleasurable choice. Public transport is one of the tools that 21st Century cities can use to help people move around efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner. This shared experience can become part of the fabric that binds communities together, a foundation for a better quality of life in work, rest and play.

 

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RCA Intelligent Mobility Degree Show https://quarterre.com/rca-intelligent-mobility-degree-show/ Fri, 01 Mar 2019 12:26:05 +0000 https://quarterre.com/?p=651 This year marked a significant change for the Royal College of Art’s Vehicle Design course with its evolution into ‘Intelligent Mobility’. The course has always...

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This year marked a significant change for the Royal College of Art’s Vehicle Design course with its evolution into ‘Intelligent Mobility’. The course has always been a hive of thoughtful and sometimes provocative work and it has been good to see how well this year’s students have adapted to the new course structure and emphasis. Whilst the inherent visual nature of the majority of students was still evident in the work on show, it was interesting to see the growing importance and strength of the narratives behind the elegant forms.

When we visited last week, it was interesting to note the many examples of shared mobility concepts in the show. Many of them examining the social forces that draw us together and, perhaps crucially for this type of mobility concept, keep us apart. Or Schachar’s Spotify-powered shared rides struck a chord with us (pun sort of intended…), it uses music to create connections between users, reminding us of the strength of music as a communal activity.

Aditya Jangrid looked at how he could create a shared mobility vehicle that allowed users some degree of say in how much they shared their space, using a green wall to create one large area suitable for a family of four or more or two discrete compartments for separate groups. The abstracted model that he built showcased this idea very elegantly.

Riccardo Petruzzi tackled the same problem, emerging with a very different solution in the form of BYOS, a smart poncho that inflates to provide a comfortable seating position and acts as a barrier between the wearer and the dirt and grime of shared vehicles and public transport.

If one common theme of the show was how to define individual spaces in shared vehicles and public transport, the other was escapism, evident in a number of ocean-going designs that acted as a safe haven in a world of rising sea-levels or, in the case of Aaj Patel, a spiritual retreat to re-engage high-net worth individuals with the fundamentals of life.

 

Despite the change of name, the RCA is still producing designers that understand the power of a meaningful story and the work on display by the inaugural Intelligent Mobility graduates showed wit and an optimism that design can be a catalyst for change.

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Wither, The Car? https://quarterre.com/wither-the-car/ Fri, 01 Feb 2019 17:09:35 +0000 https://quarterre.com/?p=632 Why you probably haven't bought your last car, yet.

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Last autumn, BBC News published a thought-provoking piece on their website called ‘Why you have (probably) already bought your last car’. In it, they made the case that, just as the age of horse-drawn transport effectively ended a mere twenty or so years after the first Model T Ford left the Piquet Avenue plant in Detroit, the next transport revolution could happen a lot faster than we expect. A combination of the promise of the imminent arrival of autonomous cars, simpler and longer-lasting electric vehicles were cited as two of the key drivers (no pun intended) for the extinction of the privately-owned car.

There are plenty of things to like about the scenario that the article paints, costs savings for the individual, who no longer has to sink significant cash into a mostly unused, depreciating asset, being not the least of them. It also fits well with the idea that the transition from the discrete purchase of individual products to having everything as a service (even toilet paper) is inevitable and desirable. However, it is interesting to contrast the bold assertions of the BBC piece (which, to be fair, admits that it is deliberately making its argument forcefully to provoke debate) with an article the Guardian newspaper published about the Chinese bike sharing firm Ofo, pulling out of London, due in part, to vandalism, or news last year that the Parisian electric car-sharing service, Autolib, was to close, amidst complaints of poorly maintained, dirty vehicles (and, to add insult to injury, it wasn’t making any money, either). Ford announcing it was going to close down its Chariot ride-hailing bus service just a few days ago adds weight to the argument that it is not building the vehicles that is the hard part, it is maintaining the service.

The great American writer, Stewart Brand once wrote about the ‘Romance of Maintenance’, good architecture, he said, considers the role that maintenance plays in the life of a building. Buildings – and indeed, cars and buses – can’t keep themselves clean, the unsung heroes of the next transport revolution may well be the men and women employed cleaning up after careless service users. The experience of Autolib and Ofo show that Brand’s advice would be well heeded by those wishing to sell Mobility As A Service too.

All this probably suggests that we haven’t bought our last cars just yet. Completely autonomous vehicles are still some way off, and until the cost of drivers is removed from the financial equation facing companies, the challenge of making these services profitable will remain an unsurmountable hurdle for all but the deepest pockets and most patient.

Nevertheless, the tide is turning, the number of 17-25 year olds taking driving test in UK is down 20% from 2007-2017, UK car sales have just recorded their biggest year-on-year fall since the financial crisis of 2008 and reports suggest that when Uber is floated, it will have a market cap of around $120bn, making it bigger than any car company bar Toyota. Privately-owned cars will probably never vanish entirely but it’s quite easy to imagine them becoming a luxury once more, a niche hobby for enthusiasts. For designers, the exciting challenge will be developing practical and pleasant transport that people will happily choose over owning their own car and where ease of maintenance is designed in from the start.

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Fringe Benefits https://quarterre.com/fringe-benefits/ Tue, 20 Nov 2018 17:28:44 +0000 https://quarterre.com/?p=622 We’ve been feeling increasingly that right now, we are living through an automotive Cambrian Explosion, a time when an extraordinary number of new types of...

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We’ve been feeling increasingly that right now, we are living through an automotive Cambrian Explosion, a time when an extraordinary number of new types of vehicle are being created. We know that not all of these will survive – the bar to entering the automotive market has long been punishingly high – but even those that perish will more than likely leave a mark, shaping the survivors in ways that we can only begin to imagine right now.

With this in mind, we have been interested to see that some of the most thought-provoking automotive ideas of the last few months are from relative newcomers to this scene. A case in point is the Biomega SIN, a quadricycle concept from the Danish bike company that seats four people in a stylish, minimalist – some might say no-frills – package. It’s a beguiling concept but one that will have to work hard to find its market – at €20,000 the SIN will have plenty of competition from the next generation of electric cars, most of which will offer far more in the way of functions, features and comfort. If the SIN can’t offer any of these or the traffic-beating narrowness of an ebike, it will need another USP.

Another contender from Scandanavia is UNITI, who have announced the Uniti One, a tandem, 2-seat, electric city car. The One is about the same size as a Renault Twizy – another vehicle that sits right at the edge of the motoring mainstream and one that also offers the same bicycle-built-for-two tandem layout. Whilst the exterior of the Uniti One features many cues familiar to mainstream car design, the Swedish company is obviously working hard to define shared mobility service models and collaborations with partners such as E-On that can give it a unique position in the market. As is the case with Biomega, it is clear that there has to be a compelling need for difference, a need unmet by existing vehicle architectures and service models.

Concepts such as these two and the entrance of car companies such as VW, Seat, GM and Ford into the scooter, bike and mobility market suggest that in this new Cambrian era, the clear boundaries between cars and bikes are getting blurred. Hopefully, this cross-pollination will benefit everyone and the renewed competition will prompt the incumbents to be bold with their product offerings. Many automotive brands have their roots in the bicycle industry or have produced limited ranges of bikes as leisure products alongside their cars; it would be great to see these becoming an integrated part of a coherent, multi-modal service.

In the same way that the biodiversity resulting from the Cambrian Explosion created a vibrant, sustainable ecosystem that was vital in supporting human life; if we are to maintain our 21st Century lifestyles, we are going to need transport diversity – a broad spectrum of mobility solutions, providing a wide variety of options, for many different needs. Maybe some of the new automotive players are evolutionary dead-ends but maybe, just maybe, their very existence benefits us all in the long run.

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Reflections on the IAA https://quarterre.com/reflections-on-the-iaa/ Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:36:25 +0000 https://quarterrestudio.com/?p=615 The biennial IAA commercial vehicle show in Hannover, Germany is the less glamorous sister of the giant Frankfurt car show. This year, however, the show...

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The biennial IAA commercial vehicle show in Hannover, Germany is the less glamorous sister of the giant Frankfurt car show. This year, however, the show has been notable for the number of concepts on display. Here are some of our favourites:

Ford Otosan F-Vision concept

A handsome and well-resolved styling exercise, the F-Vision hints at the appearance of the next generation of Ford trucks – it’s described as being battery-powered and equipped with level 4 autonomous driving, meaning it could in theory drive itself within a geofenced metropolitan area.

Volvo Vera

Perhaps just as interesting for the questions it raises as the answers it provides, this cabless, autonomous, electric tractor unit is not intended for long-haul journeys but for use in restricted areas such as ports or logistics centres, which goes some way to excusing the lack of an aero solution for the front end of the containers it would tow. It would be great to see an evolution of this that took into account how Vera could interact with pedestrians and co-workers – a visual interface of some sort?

Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo

There’s a lot to like about this latest VW concept. It’s a neat and tidy reinterpretation of the VW minibus, showcasing a mobile workshop and promising a smart-sounding platform that can be configured with different battery size packs for different uses. Volkswagen have shown a dizzying number of electric vehicle concepts over the last couple of years, presumably as a kind of public act of contrition for the emissions scandal that they have been embroiled in. It would be good to see one finally go into production.

Mercedes Benz Vision Urbanetic

If the ID Buzz Cargo was a considered re-working of a classic, the Vision Urbanetic flies boldly in the face of everything that you thought you knew about how a Three-Pointed Star-car should look. Its aesthetics have more in common with a Nike sneaker than an S-class but don’t let the looks distract from the compelling concept behind the swooping forms and blue LED light. The Urbanetic features a ‘skateboard’-style chassis, onto which, different bodies can be coupled, allowing it to transport people or goods. This, they say, would allow vehicles to be in use for a greater percentage of their life, leading potentially, to more efficient public transport and logistical systems. It’s an idea that has been explored by others such as Rinspeed with the Snap concept and Toyota with the e-Pallete in the past and suggests that the biggest danger of autonomous vehicles is not being run over but losing your job to one.

What’s interesting about the IAA this year is that the specific nature of many vehicles here makes them much easier to make autonomous than passenger cars, meaning that the first self-driving cars that many of us meet may well be vans or trucks. Adieu, white van man?

 

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Retro Futurism https://quarterre.com/retro-futurism/ Mon, 17 Sep 2018 21:44:32 +0000 http://quarterrestudio.com/?p=471 We are always interested to see the cars unveiled at Pebble Beach by the big car brands. It’s a singular show in many ways –...

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We are always interested to see the cars unveiled at Pebble Beach by the big car brands. It’s a singular show in many ways – a celebration of motoring’s past glories that is now the preferred place to showcase its possible futures.

This year, many brands have been re-examining and re-imagining their past. Porsche, presumably tired of seeing Singer rocking on their Pfennig, has decided if you can’t beat them, join them, and launched Project Gold, which, disappointingly, is not a 911 inspired by the greatest hits of ABBA but a one-off 993 resto-mod, with sumptuous black and gold detailing. Jaguar announced it was giving the green light to a production version of Concept Zero, the electric Jaguar E-Type, made by the JLR Classics division, motto: ‘We future history’, a succinct slogan boldly defiant of the need for verbs in English.

Infiniti, a brand that is only 29 years old, used the show last year as an occasion to display a retro-styled concept – Prototype 9 – that was based on an imagined 1940s Grand Prix racer from their past. It is a thought-provoking act when typically premium brands derive much of their value from their history The suggestion is, that if you like what you see, it doesn’t matter when it was created or the route travelled to get there. Prototype 10, shown this year, was more contemporary in feel, although still with a nod to classic single-seat sports cars from the 50s and 60s, it felt a comfortable blend of classicism and modernism.

It’s an interesting change of approach from car companies. Whilst they have always leant heavily on past glories, it is only in last 20 years or so that many have begun to re-imagine their classic designs. Design chief J Mays was at the forefront this trend of whilst at VW and Ford. The Concept One ‘New Beetle’ and Ford’s Thunderbird, Mustang and GT were described at the time as ‘retrofuturism’ due to the way they mixed clean, modern surfacing with lines that drew their inspiration quite clearly from cars of an older, more romantic (or is that more romanticised?) era.

Perhaps this is the key to these cars. They look back to a simpler time, when the driver’s role at the wheel wasn’t under threat and didn’t require multiple electronic guardian angels to keep him or her safe. Re-examining this can help car companies find that human element again. That quirk that lends character and makes a car – and all the experiences that go with it -unique.

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Hello https://quarterre.com/hello/ Thu, 18 Jan 2018 12:01:10 +0000 http://quarterrestudio.apps-1and1.net/?p=1 Hello and welcome to our new website. We’ll be bringing you regular updates about what we are doing very soon.

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Hello and welcome to our new website. We’ll be bringing you regular updates about what we are doing very soon.

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