An Autonomous Car Built Just For Driving Kids to School

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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If you’ve ever wondered what autonomous cars designed expressly to transport children to school will look like, ponder no more. This concept is as good a glimpse as any.

  • The Chico design concept was created to demonstrate what an autonomous electric car expressly built to drive children to school might look like.
  • Additional electric power generated by the swinging motion of the interior seat, which is hinged like a swing.
  • Since Chico drives itself, a child can even opt to sit on the playground-like floor during their commute.
  • Small children can even crawl into the car, thanks to its fanciful ramp that deploys from the floor.

Penned by Giovanni Duc, this design concept called “Chico,” masquerading as a Nissan, was created to demonstrate how small, fanciful and purpose-built automated electric vehicles can be both distinctively engaging for their intended audience but also inventively efficient.

For example, the bright yellow interior features a swing-like seat. When the vehicle travels around corners, the swing, well, swings. This, in turn, generates electricity. That swing-generated energy is routed to the vehicle’s battery packs thereby increasing driving range (albeit minutely).

Furthermore, the floor is covered in carpet. That’s not revolutionary. However, since the autonomous car can — in theory — never crash, the children can sit on the playground-like floor if they so wish, while Chico whisks them off to school.

Kids would love climbing into Chico, too, since a ramp deploys from the floor once the door slides open. This would enable even toddlers to literally crawl into the car.

What I like most about Duc’s design is its willingness to embrace a very small use case; it’s not trying to be a panacea or a vehicle suited to all people, for all purposes. In the future, the utility of some vehicles can fall away and artists can really lean into creative expression in the design.

Take the Renault EZ-ULTIMO concept, for example. It doesn’t purport to be anything but a self-driving luxury barge for wealthy vacationers. It was designed to take people on a one-way trip (or perhaps short roundtrip) from a hotel to another location — nothing more. Accordingly, it looks like an old-world lounge inside.

Same goes for the Citroen 19_19 concept. It’s just a fun, funky place for families to relax while it drives itself. Heck, no one seat inside it is the same — be it the fabric that covers it or the seat’s shape itself. These are exactly the kinds of imaginative and extravagant types of designs that will force subscribers and riders to choose one brand over another.

For so long, I’ve worried that self-driving electric cars will eventually all be exactly the same; a Ford would be almost indistinguishable from a Genesis. Obviously, based upon what I am seeing from the imaginations of designers lately, I am completely wrong.

So, I doff my hat to Duc and his Chico concept. Never would I ever have considered a robotaxi designed to drive children to school while their parents are separately chauffeured to work (maybe in Audi’s tiny lounge-esque AI:ME concept).


About the Author

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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